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Tavolo da riunione

The Integrated Method


Here we will try to provide some theoretical reflections on the Integrated Intervention Method in the separative crisis, which is the basis of the Z efiro Project.  

We will explain, albeit in an introductory way, the key points of the intervention. For more information or a complete training on the method contact us, we will be happy to provide it!

The ultimate purpose of the method remains that of containing the damage that the conflictual and separative crisis can create to children but not only to them, also to parents and to the family understood as a complex organism with its own life and development.  

Children and parents must survive the separative crisis and the family must continue to carry out its function as organizer of attachment relationships and social relations.


When a couple separates, especially in the presence of minor children, they find themselves, while experiencing a situation of confusion and strong emotional instability, having to choose which legal, psychological, educational and social tools to use to ensure that this separation occurs in the best possible way for themselves and their children.  

There are now dozens of different tools that guide the style and ways in which separation is implemented: some parents, for example, may decide to turn to the same lawyer, others to different lawyers. Some may seek an agreement in family mediation, others will find themselves starting a long judicial case that will provide for technical investigations through CTU. Some may seek an agreement on their own, talking to each other without the help of legal or psychological counsel, others will choose instead to use lawyers, psychologists, educators and may even have to share their educational choices with social workers. Some parents will make separative agreements between them, others will involve their children in decisions.  

In short, if it is true that now every couple and every family organizes their union in an original and different way, it is also true that this also happens in the moment of separation: paraphrasing the incipit of Anna Karenina, each family separates in its own way. Often the choices of orientation on the separation are entrusted to contingent or random factors. Often they depend on the first advice that is gathered when deciding to tackle the problem; the friend who recommends us a certain family mediation service, the lawyer who guides us towards a consensual or judicial cause, the psychotherapist who tells us how much to involve the children. At other times, the strong emotional experience present when we separate guides our behaviors and choices. If the parents feel damaged, the vindictive desire will lead them to implement aggressive legal strategies, if instead they feel abandoned they will do everything to prolong the time of separation by opposing any concrete intervention that changes the previous equilibrium. If they feel guilty for their children they can put  in the field every tool to try to protect and compensate them or they will be led to do everything their children ask of them, indiscriminately.  

In such a delicate moment our actions are too often governed by emotion or chance, rather than by rationality or by an effective understanding of which technical and consultative tools are appropriate for the situation we are experiencing.

The Integrated Intervention Method should not be understood as a further instrument for governing the separative crisis, the further ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution Practice) on the same level as Family Mediation, Collaborative Practice or Parental Coordination, the additional effective technique in some cases and bankruptcy in others. Instead, it is a method designed to be usable in any separative situation and allows parents to make correct strategic choices, rational and respectful of the real interests of their children, to choose the best way, most suitable for their situation and most respectful of their children's health.

The applicability of one or another technique depends on the specific conditions of separation, the level of conflict, the previous history of the couple and the family, the availability of the spouses and the training of the consultants involved. For example, it is not possible to arrange family mediation when there is a situation of domestic violence or if one of the spouses has a significant psychiatric disorder. Likewise, parental coordination, for example, should only be used in situations of high conflict. Some interventions require that there is an agreement between the parties for their use, others are applicable even in the absence of an agreement between the parties. The intervention of technical advice, for example, does not require an agreement between the parties but its request must come directly from the judge. Individual psychotherapy or individual parental support intervention, on the other hand, does not require any agreement between the parties. Each parent can implement them separately but they do not have a high specificity in the treatment of the separative crisis.  

It often happens that one or the other tool is used not so much on the basis of their suitability but according to the knowledge that the lawyer or specialist has of them: if a specialist is also trained in mediation he will tend to indicate this as a tool for his clients while another lawyer may have a greater habit of handling cases by asking for technical advice and so will proceed, a colleague of his may be trained in Collaborative Practice and will therefore try to use this method with his client. The choice of which tools are most suitable to manage the crisis and to finally find solutions is therefore not always prudent and adequately reasoned and often the tools that are put in place, the action strategies do not resolve the crisis in useful times leading to a procrastination conflict and ultimately increasing the suffering of the whole family, including children.

The Integrated Method is a highly specialized intervention, which includes a preliminary and preventive screening intervention. It can be used in any situation, regardless of the agreement between the parties or how the specific separative situation is organized. If the parents agree on its use it can be used by both parents, this makes it more effective but it can also be used only by one parent exclusively or without the knowledge of the other, if the situation requires it. It can be indicated by the court or more often suggested by the lawyers themselves or by other consultants such as psychologists or social workers. It is an intervention of variable duration but in any case shortened, a few months at the most, which offers parents greater awareness of the situation they are facing by providing them with effective and rapid tools for a rapid solution of the crisis. Often this intervention is sufficient to restore the new family balance. In more complex situations, where it is not sufficient, it still offers the possibility of an orientation by providing important indications regarding which tools to use among all those possible to further support the family, children or parents in this step.   


Considering the separation crisis as a risk situation for the family and in particular for the children, the Integrated Intervention assumes a preventive value. Its use is therefore not confined to highly complex or highly conflictual separative situations but is recommended in any situation of separation where children are present. It allows you to separate in a more peaceful and protected way, limiting the risks that this step can have. This does not mean that its use is limited to less complex situations for which a shorter intervention time may be sufficient. Even where the level of conflict is very high and persistent and where the family situation now seems to have reorganized around the conflict without any transformed margin, the application of the method becomes fundamental to contain the anguish and allow a modification of the dynamics, a new understanding. of the situation and in fact access to a family system based on healthier balances.  

But the preventive value of the method leads to recommend its application in every situation of separation where there are minor children and therefore where it is necessary to contain the risks of the separation crisis as much as possible.  



One of the key methodological elements of this method is the collaboration between legal professionals and care professionals, commonly the lawyer and the psychologist (although the figure of the psychologist could be replaced by that of the pedagogist or social worker).

Both of these professionals establish with the party, with the parent a very intense emotional trust relationship, allied with that parent and with his deepest needs, in close contact with his desires, with his fears and with his whole emotional world, they work alongside the parent involved in the crisis by providing a diversified but integrated specialist view. The first, the lawyer, is a man (or more often a woman) of the law: he will try to defend the rights and interests of his client and to do this he will constantly refer to the reassuring regulatory framework of which he is an expert. He will also have in mind what are the interests of the children, the minors involved and will try to guide the defense so that the requests of his client do not come into conflict with the interests of the children (even more so if they are minors) rather they go to support them.  

The second professional is trained in care, in trying to understand and analyze the emotional landscape of his patient, allying himself with him so that he can feel strong and competent, capable of facing the family crisis and the fears that accompany it in the best way. Psychologist, social worker or pedagogist will have specialized training on the topic of family conflict management and will therefore be able to put in place the best tools to contain the conflict by placing it at the service of changing family balance. He will also be able to guide his patient towards the recognition of his deepest needs, avoiding that fears interfere and lead to sudden acts to the detriment of children or family in general.  

The care professional will take care of collecting the family history trying to understand the nature of the couple's relationship and the implicit reasons why the couple's pact was broken. It will also try to support the patient in exercising his parental role during the ongoing family crisis, suggesting strategies and ways to contain the risk of harm or suffering for the children.  

Finally, care and legal professionals, together with the parent, as a support team, will propose a redefinition of family balance, which could be the basis for an agreement.  



It is important that the relationship between psychologist and lawyer is characterized by the utmost collaboration and the utmost trust and that there is maximum respect and recognition of mutual competence, dealing with different but, in these situations, neighboring matters.  

In our culture, the practice of joint intervention aimed at separating parents is not yet so consolidated: very often when a spouse separates he asks for help from a lawyer to govern the legal and administrative aspects of the situation. Almost always the familiarist lawyer finds himself having to play a double role in the assumption of the assignment: on the one hand he is the bearer of legal decisions, on the other he finds himself dealing with psychological aspects related to the intense relational and emotional dynamics that the family is living. This second task is carried out without a sufficient degree of awareness and without the appropriate working tools on the part of the lawyer. Collaboration with a psychologist therefore becomes fundamental in managing the emotional reactions and psychological risks that the separative crisis entails.  

It is necessary to remember that every legal action risks having little transformative value if it is not supported by an elaboration and a process of profound emotional transformation on the part of the client, as it is also true that the elaboration of the crisis is not sufficient to lead to its solution and it is necessary that the psychological work lead to real and substantial changes in family life which, in the case of separation, must be supported by legal actions.  

Operationally, the integrated method proposes that in almost all situations and even more so when minor children are involved, a joint intervention is immediately proposed where the lawyer is immediately supported by a specialized psychologist. A first meeting can be made already together with the psychologist or during the first meeting the lawyer can indicate the name of a professional psychologist or a professional center specialized in the subject. Of family care.  

When the presence of the psychologist is proposed immediately explaining that this is the practice adopted for all clients and that this intervention is of great help to be sure of making the best choices for the children, usually the client is happy to have a team of professionals with mixed skills who work in an integrated way, instead of just one lawyer.  

Sometimes the client is perplexed by the idea of having to go to a psychologist. The greatest perplexities may concern the idea of psychological intervention as an intrusive and judgmental intervention. When the resistances are of this type, it may be useful to reassure the client that the proposed intervention is not strictly therapeutic and instead has a consultative value: the presence in the work team of a psychologist specialized in family separation can provide indications. , useful guidelines on how to set up the legal intervention. The lawyer can therefore propose to his client to participate in an initial interview with the psychologist, possibly even in the presence of the lawyer himself.  

Other times the greatest perplexity concerns economic issues. A second specialist has its own cost. In reality, from an economic point of view, the integrated intervention, due to its prevention and guidance effect, is much more efficient and in most cases allows the customer to save as it reduces the time required for the legal separation process and significantly decreases the risk of a court case.  

Finally, there are situations in which the client believes that a legal intervention is sufficient as the psychological aspects are under control and do not constitute any problem. This perception can depend in most cases on the client's resistance to becoming aware of the complex relationship of the affair. In these cases, one or two meetings with an experienced lawyer, during which the situation and the consequences of the separation for the children and the parents are analyzed, will be sufficient to make the client aware of the problems and risks and available to talk to a specialist. .  

In other cases, a minority in reality, the separative situation is really simple, the consequences and risks on the psychological level are very low, the conflict is very low and the couple is able to manage the problem adequately and in full awareness. In these cases, indeed, the legal figure may be sufficient and no further psychological intervention is necessary.  



One of the first elements to evaluate in setting up integrated intervention is the willingness of both parents to be assisted in the separation through an integrated intervention.  

The integrated method can be applied even if only one of the two parents adheres to the intervention but it is much more effective when both parents decide to use this method.  

In this case, each of the parents will be able to refer to his work team made up of a lawyer and a psychologist.

This will allow the parent to feel supported by his team of professionals and to carry out the whole process foreseen by the integrated method and described below but will greatly help the dialogue between the parents in the shared definition of a shared solution to the crisis, of a new family balance. When the parents struggle to find an agreement, the two teams of professionals will be able to initiate a dialogue which, before becoming a full-fledged negotiating table, will allow professionals to recognize the needs and fears of each of the parents and communicate them to the other party.  

The agreement arises from the possibility that each parent feels that, at least in part, his needs are recognized within the agreement itself and that at least in part his fears, his anxieties can be contained by the presence of the agreement.  

The dialogue between professionals therefore becomes fundamental and an example for parents who will be able to begin to see how effective dialogue with the other party can be. Even when dialogue is not yet possible between parents, it can be between professionals if these, in their role of supporting the parent, will have at heart the real and profound interests of that parent, his needs, his fears, his way of experiencing the crisis they are experiencing more than the need to be able to bring the negotiation result closest to the position of their client / patient into the agreement.  

The dialogue tools between the two teams of professionals can be multiple, more or less formalized. In some moments it may be necessary that the two lawyers write to each other or that the two psychologists talk to each other in a phone call or in a meeting between technicians belonging to the same profession.  

In cases where decisions need to be made, such as setting the lines of the parenting plan, it is essential that parents supported by their counselors meet. If the topic is primarily legal, a meeting between the  parents in the presence of lawyers only, if instead the problem has a particularly psychological flavor (such as, for example, the times or methods of stay of a child with each of the parents) it may be appropriate for the parents to carry out some joint meetings supported by their psychological counselors. Finally, if the problem takes on both a juridical and legal value, such as, for example, the drafting of the entire separative agreement, a six-party meeting may be necessary in which both the lawyers and psychologists of each of the parents will be present.  

In most cases, a similar modality of intervention, if applied adequately, allows to reach an agreement in a short time and reducing as much as possible the pain, the conflict and the risk for the children. If this possibility is not reached due to the high level of conflict between the parents, the counselors will still be able to suggest, as jointly as possible, to the parents how to proceed and decide, as much as possible together, whether to proceed judicially or rely on other extrajudicial interventions.  

The presence of a work team with mixed skills can still be useful later and in any case mitigate the conflict making it more tolerable even in the case of a long and tiring judicial battle.  


The Integrated intervention for taking charge of the separation crisis can be divided into three successive stages. During these moments the parent will pass from the feeling of undergoing the separation or its consequences to the feeling of governing the separative crisis by identifying more easily solutions to the problems that arise.  



The first phase of the intervention favors the process of reassurance and containment of fears. The two main tools we are going to use are:

  1. The presentation of the legal framework and the legal formalization of the crisis.

  2. Creating a relationship of trust with professionals and a working alliance.

When the separation crisis explodes and the couple becomes aware of wanting or having to face a separation, each of the parents foreshadows and fantasizes future dramatic, catastrophic or scary scenarios. Some parents may fear being thrown out of their home and no longer have a home, others will feel that they will no longer be able to see their child or that they will permanently lose their children's love and trust. Others fear that the other parent could harm them physically, economically or psychologically. Some others fear they will be in conflict forever without being able to find any solution to the crisis. In order to stem these risks, some parents actually plan to implement extreme and unjustified solutions. For example, a father for fear of permanently losing the opportunity to be with his child may decide to go away with the child without communicating it to the mother. A mother for fear of losing her child's esteem may decide to communicate to her child in detail the reasons why the father is solely responsible for the separation. These actions, often driven by fear or the desire for revenge, are devastating and remain as wounds that risk definitively cracking the process of peaceful and responsible resolution of the crisis, exasperating  further fears and mutual mistrust.  

In the first instance, as soon as the idea of separation is envisaged, the presentation of the legal framework, or of what normally (according to the law) happens in these situations, what are the rules, laws and procedures that allow everyone to arrive at separating by finding new balances helps each parent to contain their catastrophic fantasies and the anxiety that connotes them.  

The rules of the game are clarified: what the possible or probable future scenarios, what the normal procedures for accessing them. It is this prevailing task of the lawyer who, in my opinion, from the very first meeting must assume the responsibility of containing the anxieties and agitations of his clients by establishing the limits and boundaries of the intervention, that is, that one can or may not it will be able to do, in what times and in those terms, recognizing that often behind the alarmed and often not very motivated requests of the customers there are their fears, their catastrophic fantasies.  

Even at the risk of being disappointing, the lawyer is called upon to explain to what extent the jurisprudence is in line with the client's requests as well as immediately clarifying how the jurisprudence protects the rights of parents and children and that therefore the process will take place in a controlled situation, without excessive risks with the protection of the law.

This is as deeply reassuring to the parent as it is to know that we have a team of trained professionals at our side who support us in the separation process. The parent will no longer feel alone and on any occasion can ask for support from his psychologist or his lawyer.  

The relationship of trust that is established with one's lawyer is very intense and of a profoundly different quality compared to that established with those who take care of us. The relationship with the lawyer is by nature fiduciary or the lawyer is  called to defend rights and interests. This in the moment of crisis is of profound help for the client who knows that according to the statute the lawyer will be on his side and will move to defend him. The relationship of trust that is established with the psychologist or with the person in charge of the treatment has a different character as the treatment does not necessarily provide for a field alignment, or that those who take care of us likewise agree with us and totally embrace our thoughts. . Despite the research  on the treatment factors have shown that the relationship of trust is the most important among the non-specific therapeutic factors, that is to say that it is a fundamental factor that supports the therapy and without which the cure cannot take place (….).



Once a reassuring environment has been established, it is possible to dedicate oneself to the elaboration of the crisis or to better understand different aspects of what is happening in order to give it full governance.  

To process the events we will accompany the parent while he performs three different tasks:  

  1. It carries out the historical reconstruction of what happened to it and its motivations.

  2. He trains his ability to be a parent not only in situations of balance and harmony but also in situations of crisis and alarm.

  3. He focuses his attention on the children by considering in the first instance what risks they run and how to stem the developmental risks for the children involved in the separation.

The historical reconstruction of the family and the couple's relationship allows the parent to give himself a reason for what is not yet explained and is not clear. Why is it all over? Why us? Where did we go wrong? These are some questions that torment those who are separating and their answer is contained in the history of the formation and development of the couple and the family. What secret and hidden pact has the couple supported to date? When was this pact betrayed? who first noticed this betrayal? How has the crisis of the couple influenced the shared family project? It will be the care specialist who will support his patient so that the answers to similar questions lead him to re-elaborate and ultimately to better accept the separation and its consequences.

It is an intervention of re-narration and co-narration in search of new meanings. Only an understanding of what has happened can help contain anger, depression, fear or the vindictive drive.  

At the same time it will be necessary to start taking care of the children: how will they react or have they reacted to the separation? How and when is it appropriate to communicate it to him? What strategies can we as parents put in place to help them cope with this situation? What in particular do they need now that we are separating? These are some of the questions parents usually ask themselves. Being a parent in the moment of separation requires different skills to those we are used to putting into play with our children; it requires to keep our emotional states at bay so that they do not prevail over our ability to listen and dialogue, it requires the ability to protect children from their fears when we ourselves are scared and the ability, even when the couple's conflict is at the highest level , to ensure that both parents love them equally and are there to help.

To do this, the parent must have full awareness of the environmental and relational risk factors to which the conflictual and separative dynamics are exposing their children. He will have to understand what the level of conflict is, what are the real emotional resources of each of the parents and children and if there is a social or social network of support to support parents and children. This will stimulate him to contain the risks, reducing the conflict, for example, by avoiding devaluing the other parent or by seeking support among friends or specialized figures.  

So, once we have helped the parent to better understand what is happening in his family's life, we can finally ask him to focus on who in the family is more fragile, that is his children so that the damage for them is contained, so that they too can understand. more clearly what is happening and how it is possible to deal with it.



On the basis of this intense reworking work, parents will be able to begin to redefine the organization of the family, the first hypotheses can be formulated and discussed: who will take on the educational responsibility, where the children will live and where the parents will live. What will be and how will be defined the times of attendance of each parent and, lastly, who and to what extent will bear the expenses of the family.  

In this phase it will be the task of the consultants to accompany the parents in defining an operational hypothesis for redefining the family balance, the so-called parental plan and the separative agreement that contains it. The consultants will also have to work to understand what are the best tools to lead the family towards the new balance: the consultants will now have all the elements to understand if the couple can be able to deal with family mediation, if instead, the lawyers will be able to support the couple in a negotiation process  or if it will be necessary to go through the courtrooms invoking the legal decision even if this may involve the need to undergo a tiring and lengthy CTU.  

It is time to propose action to arrive at a reorganization and the lawyers, in particular, will be called to play their role so that the conflict can result in a new organization, now that the time is ripe.  



The subdivision of the intervention into these three different phases, with its sub-phases, is useful for us to understand that even the separative process requires its evolution but when the facts prove it is too schematic: sometimes from the first meeting we find ourselves formulating with the client a first necessary hypothesis of reorganization of family life which in any case must continue and cannot wait for the couple's reworking times. Other times, we see moments in which the client loses trust in his consultants even if we are already in the phase of defining the agreement and it is therefore necessary to implement strategies to reinforce the relationship of trust. In short, the process of separative re-elaboration is complex and it would perhaps be more appropriate to talk about positions, rather than talking about phases. In theory, it is important to keep in mind that initially a legal reassurance is necessary both in the definition of the working alliance and that then follows a final elaboration moment which will be easier to define operationally new balances.  

However, if we talk about "positions" such as specific attitudes that the parent carries according to the moments and situations, we could find a parent who always tends to place himself in an operational and transformative position of the equilibrium, refusing the position of reassurance and elaboration and who we should therefore lead to consideration of those other positions as well. Another parent may always have a great need for reassurance but never go through the time to negotiate a new balance or fail to work on their emotional experiences, their history and their relationship with their children. We should therefore help him get in touch with these other positions of change as well.  

It is therefore not essential that one passes from a position of reassurance to one of elaboration to one of operational redefinition, but it is important that the parent is able to change his attitude in a fluid way, passing according to the moments of the separative crisis from one to another. other location. Our task will be to support him in this harmonious game so that the separative crisis can end and that we can access a new balance, a new stability in family life.  


These are some preliminary concepts to the Integrated Intervention Method in the Separative Crisis underlying every Z efiro intervention.

If you want more information or want to start collaborating with us, contact us.

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