About us/Philosophy

Hello,  Welcome to the Center for Collaborative Change.  Although I have provided mental health services for almost 2 decades in various setting, I have developed this center as a hybrid support service.  I am not your typical psychotherapist, I attempt to EXPLORE THE CONFLUENCE BETWEEN MENTAL HEALTH AND EDUCATION.

Ben Hillyard
Phone – 603-686-5169
Fax – 603-686-5008
ben@centerforcollaborativechange.com

Tiffany Sailor (Office Manager, billing)
Phone/Fax – Same as above
tiffany@centerforcollaborativechange.com

For a more complete outline of my professional history please follow the LinkedIn Profile below.

Ben’s LinkedIn Profile

Philosophy

EXPLORING THE CONFLUENCE BETWEEN EDUCATION AND MENTAL HEALTH
There are many missed opportunities when it comes to the treatment of children with emotional, educational, attentional and behavioral difficulties. These children are better served by a carefully constructed collaboration between their parents, educators and therapists.
The therapeutic isolation of a weekly, hour-long, one-on-one session with the child and therapist is not an effective approach as it could be because it is not broad enough in scope or as inclusive as it might be. It is historically dependent on parental second-hand reporting of the complex environment of school and home and therefore less likely to work along with other related participants in the child’s life. It is in the absence of direct face to face interaction, negotiation and communication between and among relevant participants that the missed opportunities occur. A multidimensional, responsive and careful collaborative effort can mitigate these isolation pitfalls from all involved disciplines.
As one of my client’s parents said in exasperation, “No one holds the whole picture.”
These missed opportunities, from a psychotherapeutic perspective, to significantly change behavior, motivation, and emotional functioning of these children using the isolated model is a result of several factors. There are equally burdensome struggles from the parental and educational perspectives as well.
1. The therapist often becomes involved late in the situation, i.e., gets called when the child is oppositional at school and/or at home, has gotten a series of poor grades, has tantrums when frustrated and has negatively internalized attempts at redirections. In other words the situation has become a crisis and expectations for quick resolution are high.
2. It often takes several weeks to develop a strong working relationship with a child, especially when asking the child to address something he/she is likely to want to avoid.
3. If medication has been initiated and has made significant improvements the secondary effects are likely to persist.
4. The child may have additional problems, such as, lowered frustration tolerance, social skill difficulties, a negative self-image and other co-existing disorders such as anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities.
5. The child may be confused by the different approaches used by the various adults involved and they’re differing and sometimes opposing perspectives.
6. There can be redundancy and lack of cohesiveness in the redirections and behavior management styles of the involved adults.
There is a more comprehensive way to treat these children, and at the request and encouragement of some of the parents of my clients, I began to explore other ways to enhance and expand on therapy sessions specifically by meeting with school administrators, parents, classroom teachers and other educational specialists. As one of my client’s parents said in exasperation, “No one holds the whole picture.”
Therapists, educators and parents, in fact, all seemed to be attempting to solve some of the same problems but from very different perspectives. Educational professionals tend to support and remediate. Psychotherapeutic professionals tend to explore understanding and behavioral reactions and provide recommendations. The complexities of family systems tend to lead toward reactivity to behavior. These different perspectives can create very different environmental or emotional stressors for the child resulting in different reactions in the various environments and confusing the situation even more. Thus, the child can react very differently while in the different environments.
Schools are increasingly overtaxed and under funded and burdened by the pressures of curriculum and testing. Therapists have to consider the implications of the school situation since children spend a significant amount of their waking hours in school and parents are trying to juggle increasingly complex lives. If there is duplication of effort could collaboration ameliorate some of this?
Developing a collaborative approach, which involved all the major participants in the child’s life, seemed to have a greater potential for success. It became my goal to develop a system that worked more effectively and efficiently with the whole child in that child’s real world of home, social situations and at school. A carefully constructed collaboration system is needed to create, around that child, a team tailored to his/her individual needs that crossed the boundaries from home to school.
Roadblocks to Collaborative Success
Parents, educators and therapists want to do what is best for these children. Constructing a functioning collaboration process is not, however, without problems or obstacles. People come to problems and solutions from vastly different perspectives. In fact, I have witnessed some intense disagreements based on differences in perspective.
Far too often parents have told me that the school “just doesn’t understand” or they are “unwilling to help.” That is most often the exact opposite of the truth and speaks more to the despair and isolation of the parent of a child not succeeding than unwillingness of an educator. In fact, a teacher’s job satisfaction is often directly tied to the success of their students. No doubt some educators make negative and incorrect assumptions about parents as well.
There may be fundamental misunderstandings, misinformation, and poor communications between this mosaic of participants. Coordination may be very difficult from a logistics perspective alone, as in, problems with schedules. Compensation may be problematic since insurance companies never reimburse mental health or medical providers for this important effort. Parents may have to pay for this time or attempt to play the middleman role themselves. Conflict can occur in the face of limited resources, frustration due to lack of progress, legalities, cultural differences and socio-economic challenges.
Solutions
What I am proposing is not rocket science. In fact it is based on common sense, leadership, and trust in the actual collaborative elements and each participant’s desire, motivation and goodwill to do what is in the best interest of the child. The uniqueness of this is in the process and the effectiveness of the process, that is, the ability to get everyone on the same page in a more advanced way than is commonly the case. Often there are only casual conversations between participants rather than the more comprehensive written, face to face, shared and acknowledged communication needed for this process to succeed to a greater degree. The collaborative elements must include the following be effective.
Trust
Respect for different opinions and perspectives
User-friendly and current information
A problem solving approach
Intolerance of blaming
Timing and prioritization of technique/redirection/remediation
Setting of reachable goals
A globally accepted formulation of a child that crosses traditional isolated theoretical orientation
Buy-in/motivation
Flexibility
Interestingly, I have found that the lack of these basic elements is often the root cause of conflicts and mistrust between schools and parents. The collaborative process therefore includes the development of the above mentioned elements with a step by step, carefully planed focus on independence as a primary goal. This allows all participants to guide the child as their influence allows in harmony with the agreed upon plan. It is important to carefully watch for set backs and over burdening and to view the child as a rapidly changing person with various responses to resistance, motivation and frustration.
Collaboration is effective only if trust and good communication are established and maintained between participants. The use of the most effective person to provide leadership in the collaboration system can be a group decision and that person needs to be supported by the whole group. Effective timing of accommodations or recommendations can take the place of the inflexible nature of an IEP. If an IEP can be considered a treatment plan and if it is agreed that mental health issues can effect education it make sense that the efforts be connected.
In the process of setting up a collaborative system the use of existing and widely used models from, for instance, the business community would be prudent. Such principals as the building or rebuilding of trust, distribution and execution of an executive summary, and the principals of conflict resolution can and should be used. In addition the balance of confidentiality of information and the use of electronic information sharing must be explored so that the timeliness and usefulness of the information can be maintained.
When students, parents, educators and therapists have a strong working relationship the child experiences a sense of momentum and comfort that can be motivating and a commodity to be used to make change. In my proposal in which a collaborative system is created in order to better meet the needs of these children, that not only will the end result be better but that costs and other resources can be more effectively allocated.
By seeking, fostering and guiding positive relationships with the education community, other health professionals, parents and children in the collaborative process, a positive, doable system will results in more effective change, more harmony among the involved participants and therefore more effectiveness for children in need.

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Contact us:

Ben Hillyard
Phone - 603-686-5169
Fax - 603-686-5008
ben@centerforcollaborativechange.com

Tiffany Sailor (Office Manager, billing)
Phone/Fax - Same as above
tiffany@centerforcollaborativechange.com

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