Skills before decisions!

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Skills Before Decisions: The Structure high conflict people need to succeed

New Ways for Families® teaches four basic relationship and conflict resolution skills before the major decisions are made. These skills are: flexible thinking, managed emotions, moderate behaviors, and checking yourself (checking yourself by reminding yourself to use these skills when new issues arise). These skills are essential to all successful relationships and to resolving conflicts.

All professionals involved with a family reinforce these four skills in their work together and in helping the family make each decision throughout the case. The goal is to reduce court appearances and reduce family conflict. This method is specifically designed to address domestic violence, alienation and other issues as a “gateway” to further treatment.

Read More:

Can Difficult Clients Learn Decision-Making Skills?

New Ways Professional Guidebook

Getting Started - For Professionals

Want to become a New Ways provider? The first step is to decide which program model you want to offer, depending on your profession, and to complete the required training.

Visit our Starting a New Ways Program page for more information about implementing the program community-wide, with the collaboration of mental health professionals, the legal community and the court.

Visit our Training and Licensing pages to learn more about becoming trained as an approved provider. 

Program Models

Organizations, counseling groups and individual practitioners can choose to implement any of the New Ways Program Models.

Research Basis

The development of New Ways for Families® is based on a wide range of ideas and research from different sources which are used to help families. Some of the key research-based methods which influenced the development of this method include:

  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a method of treating child abuse for parents of children ages 2-7 years old. In this therapy, the therapist guides the parent and child together in their interactions, teaching and reinforcing positive behaviors. PCIT uses a family systems approach and has had substantial success over the past 15 years. Step 2 of New Ways (Parent-Child Counseling sessions) is based on a similar concept of focusing on parent-child interaction rather than the prevailing Family Court method of giving the child and parent separate therapists.
  • Child-Inclusive Mediation: Child-Inclusive mediation includes input from children to their separated parents during the mediation of their parenting disputes. This approach has been found to be significantly more effective than comparable mediation which only includes generic child-focused developmental information provided by the mediator. The Parent-Child Counseling sessions are intended to incorporate this approach more directly by having each parent and child meet together, with the assistance of a counselor. The first session focuses on the parent teaching the child the skills, while the second session focuses on the parent listening to the child’s concerns. Based on the impact of this second session, after hearing their child’s concerns, most parents are expected to be more able to negotiate a realistic parenting plan rather than fighting in court.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) was developed specifically to address the problems of people with Borderline Personality Disorder. This therapy includes an individual therapist, a skills building group therapy, and a consultation group for therapists. The key elements are teaching small skills in small steps, teaching the client ways to manage one’s own emotions, and a lot of validation of the person along the way. Step 1 of New Ways (Individual Parenting Counseling) is based on similar concepts: Teaching small skills in small steps, with the Individual counselor helping the client deal with constant resistance to change and the client’s emotional “dysregulation.” This gives parents a chance to change before major decisions are made.


Training varies depending on the Program Model. Please view our Training Page for more detailed information.


High Conflict Institute does not operate New Ways for Families® as a centralized program. Instead, High Conflict Institute collaborates with counseling agencies, family court systems and individual professionals who want to provide the New Ways for Families® program curriculum directly to their clients by offering training and then licensing the name, method and materials to professionals. 

The license is intended to ensure the consistency and integrity of the method and includes many benefits. High Conflict Institute provides training, consultation, and implementation assistance.

Our licensing procedures are very structured. The first step is to complete the required New Ways training. Following the training, you will be provided with licensing materials, policies and procedures. Please view our licensing page or contact us for more information about licensing requirements.

View our free 1-hour Introduction for Professionals video

This intro video provides a detailed demonstration of each of the 4 steps of the New Ways counseling model.

Press play to watch the video:  

The courtroom is not the place to effectuate long-term resolution of child custody issues. It is imperative that parents learn skills, such as those being taught by New Ways for Families, so that our collective children can not only survive divorce, but can enjoy their childhood and mature into psychologically healthy adults. The greatest gift that parents can give to their children is a sense of stability and self worth. This will only happen with divorcing/separating parents when the pain and anger cease, and they return to treating each other with dignity and respect. The benefits to their children (as well as to themselves) will be immense.
— Hon. Alan B. Clements (Ret.), Family Law Commissioner, Superior Court of California, San Diego, California 1988-2008 Judicial Officer of the Year 2009, Family Law Section of the State Bar of California