International Commission on Couple and Family Relations

2014 Workshops

Workshop 1

“The Circle of the Couple Relationship and Parenthood in Stepfamily”

Presenters Vuokko Malinen and Sinikka Kumpula

A new working model “The Circle of the Couple Relationship” was created in The Family Federation of Finland (2005-2010) and further developed into ”The Circle of the Couple Relationship and Parenthood in Stepfamily” in collaboration with the Stepfamily Association of Finland. The model is used as a theoretical base for the development of a prevention program for couples in stepfamilies. The Prevention Program for Stepfamily couples was carried out among 66 couples participating in three separate courses organized by The Family Federation of Finland and the Stepfamily Association of Finland (2010-2012).

The Prevention Program includes ”The Circle of the Couple Relationship and Parenthood in Stepfamily”, basic theories of couple relationship and couple relationship in stepfamilies, theories of functioning parenthood in stepfamilies, and demonstrations and practical exercises for partners in couples. The target couples participated in five-hour long sessions on two Saturdays (two weeks interval), altogether 10 hours.

A study was conducted among the couples participating in these courses to evaluate and develop the Prevention Program further. The participants, 66 couples (132 men and women), filled in a questionnaire in the beginning and at the end of the program and an impact follow-up was made eight-nine months after the intervention. Main results are reported in two master’s thesis (Kontkanen 2012 and Juuti 2013), and a doctoral dissertation is under preparation (Malinen). This workshop will introduce the ”Circle of the Couple Relationship and Parenthood in Stepfamily” model.

According to the results of The Program for First Marriages (developed by Koskinen, Kumpula, 2005-2010), evaluated by the University of Eastern Finland, the couples benefited from the program e.g. intentions to separate decreased and happiness was increased. Kontkanen (2012) noticed that the happiness in stepfamilies comes from different dimensions for men and for women and the couple relationship interwines with the parenthood more in second marriages than in first marriages. According to Juuti (2013), the problems and conflicts between partners in stepfamilies were related to the network of surrounding relationships, such as the relationship with the ex-partner. Findings from the Program for First Marriages lend support to that it is possible to make a considerable positive change in the lives of stepfamily couples with a short and an inexpensive intervention.


Sinikka Kumpula, Psychologist, couple- and family therapist and couple psychotherapy trainer, private practitioner

Vuokko Malinen, Psychologist, couple psychotherapy trainer, Ph.D. Candidate in Psychology, University of Eastern Finland


Workshop 2

“The Parental Regard Model: an Australian example of therapeutic post-separation family mediation”

Presenters: Bill Hewlett and Amelia Wheeler

The 2006 amendments to Australia’s Family Law Act effected many changes to the post-separation or post-divorce practice sector. Informed by research showing sustained acrimony between separated parents is damaging for children, these amendments established a number of federally -funded Family Relationship Centres across Australia. The primary purpose of these Centres is to manage disputes between parents after they separate in a less adversarial manner than in the previous court-based system. Family mediators have been empowered to develop approaches to assist separating families; however, some evidence has shown shortfalls in traditional facilitated-negotiation models of mediation. This workshop presents an overview of the Parental Regard model; a therapeutic style of mediation which has the overall aim to encourage a transformative shift in the emotional state of the parents, in turn positively affecting the parents’ ability to relate to and negotiate with one another. This model seeks to establish healthy family functioning after parents separate. The workshop presents an analysis of the social policy context as well as research from two pilot studies evaluating this innovative practice model. The workshop also features a unique presentation of the Parental Regard model in action, through the use of a live role-play with actors.


Bill Hewlett, Clinical Services Specialist, Relationships Australia New South Wales

Bill Hewlett currently works as a trainer and supervisor in Family Dispute Resolution with Relationships Australia. He has extensive experience in child inclusive mediation having practiced as a Child Consultant for nine years. Bill provides training and supervision for Family Relationship Centres, Family Relationship Service providers and Child Protection Agencies.

Amelia Wheeler, Research Officer, Relationships Australia New South Wales, PhD Candidate, University of New South Wales

Amelia is a Research Officer with Relationships Australia (NSW). Amelia is currently pursuing her PhD in Social Work at the University of New South Wales, on children’s perspectives in post-separation family dispute resolution. Amelia completed her Bachelor of Social Work (Honours Cl. 1, University Medal) at UNSW and has worked in various clinical roles with children and families. Amelia has also taught in social policy and socio-legal courses in the Undergraduate Social Work program at UNSW.


Workshop 3

“Generations and Mediation”

Presenter: Miet Timmers

Generational identity becomes more and more recognized as an important factor in social relationships. Although in everyday life, generation is taken for granted and experienced holistically, it can be very interested for a mediator to be aware of his own generational identity and those of his clients. As points of view, interest and needs, all major concerns for mediators, are influenced by age and generations.

By introducing a four step method to grow in “generational intelligence” we bring in a practical and helpful instrument for mediators who facilitate mediations in which clients of different generations are involved. The four steps include methods to become aware of one’s own generational identity, understanding the baselines of the generational identity of the other people involved, becoming critically aware of the values underlying social assumptions and finding a common intergenerational position.

Presenter: Miet Timmers, Certified mediator in family, social en civil affairs.

She is intergenerational specialist for the organization ‘Generatielink’ and is visiting professor at the Higher Institute of Family Sciences of the University of Brussels.


Workshop 4

“Does the Changing Composition of Older People Pose a Challenge to Intergenerational Caring Patterns and Relationships and How Can We Mitigate this?”

Presenters: Dylan Kneale, Christopher Sherwood

While it is widely recognised that the older population is growing in number, the changing composition of the older population is less widely understood. Older people’s changing personal, social, family and couple relationships are undergoing substantial changes that are likely to lead to transformations to traditional patterns of intergenerational relationships and caring patterns. This workshop will first focus on examining the changing nature of older people’s relationships within the broader context of a changing life course at older age, for example in terms of working patterns and health transitions. For instance, older people’s rates of divorce are rising while divorce rates for younger groups are declining, holding consequences for patterns of informal care among couples; meanwhile family composition is also changing, and older people are increasingly likely to adopt step-parenting roles which also may hold implications for patterns of intergenerational care. We will then move to explore these issues more explicitly from an intergenerational perspective through addressing how families can better plan for older age in more co-productive ways to prevent intergenerational conflict taking place within families. This will be related to our organisational experience as one of the largest providers of counselling in the UK.


Dr Dylan Kneale

  • Head of Policy and Research – Relate / Advisor – International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK)
  • Head of Policy and Research for leading Relationship Support charity
  • Develop and implement organisational strategy around measuring impact and value

Christopher Sherwood, Director of Policy and External Affairs, Relate


Workshop 5

“Litigation v. Mediation”

Presenters: Lloyd D. Godson, Judge Patricia A. Gorman

“Litigation v. Mediation” is a program that seeks global discussion regarding the strengths and weaknesses of both disciplines and where these disciplines intersect and whether these disciplines should intersect. This program seeks to explore the differences between mediation and litigation and what risks and benefits are inherent in both disciplines. The exploration will include a presentation and discussions regarding manipulation of both systems, costs inherent in both systems, cultural inequalities, and potential benefits to these systems working in tandem.

The goal through presentation is to describe the American system, as practiced through the Massachusetts Family Courts, to discuss the current strengths and weaknesses of the American system including the effect of funding of the court system, superior resources of one party over another, superior manipulation of one party over another, cultural differences, and strengths and weaknesses of individuals involved as mediators through the court system.

The goal through workshops will be to present scenarios to the participants to discuss the potential pitfalls in superior or inferior positions and how to protect the weaker party thereby evening the playing field and strengthening the family. The American system heavily involves Judges throughout the process, enabling parties to benefit from the lengthy education and experience of trial court judges. Mediation, used extensively throughout Europe, seeks to limit judicial involvement in the process.


Judge Patricia A. Gorman, Associate Justice Massachusetts Probate and Family Court

Attorney Lloyd D. Godson, Attorney at Law – Divorce/Child Custody/Property Division/Asset Protection and Maximization


Workshop 6

Siblings as Resources in Families

Presenter: Inés Brock

Sibship is an advantage because it can counterbalance parents’ powerful attitudes. Siblings can feel more closeness between one another and this could be described as family-based resources. Brothers and sisters share beliefs and attitudes and develop problem-solving abilities. But otherwise brothers experience more rivalry and aggression. Sisters one the other hand are used to communicate and to show more empathy. Improvement in parental down-regulations was indeed associated with gains in sibling relationship quality. Attitudes from sibs often quite different from their parents. When we know that sibling supportiveness and hostility are predicted by parents’ behaviors we could work out strategies to help parents arrange good conditions and create a helpful environment for growing up with brothers and sisters.


Dr. Inés Brock, Nathusius- Institut für Psychologie, Bildung und Beratung (,


Workshop 7

TEJO: Therapists for Youngsters

Presenter: Ingrid DeJonghe

TEJO is an innovative, social project that gives first line therapeutic guidance for youngsters between 10 and 20, focusing on preventive, anonymous care, free of charge. The aim is to respond directly when the youngster is ready to talk about their problem and to prevent escalation.

TEJO was awarded the 2012 Youthcare Prize of Flemish Government for “Socialization of youthcare”.

We are living in a restless world where a lot of young people feel lost because of our way of living in the society of today, long waiting lists in the official second level-intervention. Psychological problems are growing, we see a lot of relational issues in the family, life-stress, depression, divorce of parents…

The TEJO-project started at 13-3-2010 and we guided more than 1600 youngsters till now. Giving short solution focused therapy by qualified therapists in approx. 10 sessions, to clear their difficult personal situations, making them stronger again so that they can continue their adolescence in a normal way.

Currently focused on Antwerp region but other cities in Flanders and abroad are coming soon.

Today TEJO Antwerp is working with 100 qualified engaged and motivated volunteers. The world of today needs more solidarity and more altruism.

The enthusiastic TEJO-Team chooses to go in this direction.

Presenter: Ingrid De Jonghe, President TEJO-Antwerp (


Workshop 8

To be confirmed.