Dr. Brunner will be co-presenting at this year’s Arizona Family Conciliation Court Conference in Sedona, AZ on January 29-31, 2016. This is the second year in a row that he has been asked to present at this conference. The following link will take you to the Conference Brochure.
Authors: Honorable Jack J. Assini;Thomas M. Brunner, PhD; Edina A.T. Strum, JD*, and Samantha Toale, M.A
*Authors listed in alphabetical order
This presentation will explore effective handling of parents who display psychologically toxic narcissistic and/or coercive/controlling behavioral styles. We will address the psychological assessment challenges and opportunities, ethical, and practical problems they pose for attorneys, mental health professionals, and judges. Preventing – or containing – the negative fallout they cause, especially within the legal decision-making and parenting time contexts will be articulated such that the parents’ opinions and legal rights are preserved while simultaneously protecting the children’s best interests.
Families in which one or both parents have a narcissistic and/or coercive/controlling behavioral style are ripe for conflict and deterioration, physical abuse and emotional abuse between the parents and directed towards the children. Often the behaviors are so well choreographed that the abusive parent may successfully elude diagnosis and be missed by psychological questionnaire efforts. Moreover, the non-offending parent may struggle to compellingly articulate the abuse they have experienced, and the children are at risk of being seriously damaged by the psychologically toxic parent.
This presentation will address the means by which we can detect these psychologically toxic and often “stealthy abusers”. Specifically, how advanced behavioral science can lead to better assessments/recommendations from evaluators, how attorneys can best implement these recommendations yet represent their clients, and how judges can facilitate the protection of the children and others being negatively affected, will be outlined.
The roles attorneys, judges, and mental health professionals can play in assessing, preventing, containing or minimizing the damage these toxic parenting styles play in common family situations will be outlined. Guidelines to enhance evaluative roles will be discussed, leading to maximized outcomes for the family while minimizing negative fallout to children. This discussion will include practical tips to facilitate responsible attorney-client relationships while representing, yet reigning in, these challenging parents.