April 1, 2019/by FamilyKind
We continue our series of posts introducing FamilyKind Consultants. Our consultants are experienced and accomplished professionals providing education and support services to empower children, parents and couples before, during and after separation or divorce.
FK: Describe the focus of your practice and the services you provide.
Diane Hessemann: I provide social work services to divorcing and separating parents as well as parents who are post-divorce or separation who are experiencing a disconnect in their communication. I have been on the Supreme and Family Court’s Mental Health panel since 1996 and have functioned in various roles, such as supervisor of Court ordered visitation and forensic evaluator. I have also conducted adoption home studies and home assessments. More recently, I expanded my practice and have been trained in Collaborative Divorce, Mediation and Advanced Mediation Training to serve families who choose alternatives to litigation. I have been the Family Specialist in Collaborative Divorce. I utilize my mediation skills as Parenting Coordinator, Divorce Coach, and Facilitator of GoodTalk4Parents, and have also assisted in the development of parenting plans within these expanded roles.
FK: How long have you been in private practice? What other related work experience have you had?
DH: I started my private practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn in 1995, after working in both the foster care system for 10 years and also holding directorships in the shelter systems for domestic violence survivors and those with substance abuse and alcohol struggles. I have additional training in both of these areas and specialize in these areas in my private practice, in addition to a assisting in a wide array of presenting issues.
I have also been an adjunct professor since 1998 in the CUNY system, teaching in the Human Services Department. In addition, I taught at Long Island University in Brooklyn in the MSW forensic social work program, and at Kean University in New Jersey in the MSW program. I have also presented my work on a panel about parenting plans as well as the roles of forensic social work at Fordham University. Other educational roles included parent education at Kings County Family Court for 10 years, mostly as a volunteer, as well as a FamilyKind mental health educator.
FK: What has been the most satisfying FamilyKind case that you handled and why?
DH: There have been many FamilyKind cases I found satisfying and it has been refreshing to work with matters away from a litigious climate. One case that comes to mind was a divorce coaching case where a first-time father-to-be approached FamilyKind while his daughter was still in utero because there had already been a separation. He wanted assistance in not only negotiating a parenting plan with the mother but also in parenting in general. He was so open to learning about meeting his unborn child’s physical and emotional needs that it was an honor to have the opportunity to assist him.
I might add that the skills learned in GoodTalk4Parents, brought to FamilyKind by Shari Bornstein, Esq. have been invaluable and really work in assisting parents with their communication skills.
FK: What are some new areas of challenge that parents today may face when they separate?
DH: I concur that housing costs and other costs, in general, of raising a family in New York City, place a great deal of burden on our already stressed families. I see that parents’ need to work many hours to make ends meet — and sometimes on opposite schedules to avoid child care costs — as distancing factors in family life. I hope that the new trend of “work/life balance” continues to gain momentum and eases some of that burden for our families.
FK: How do you see children benefiting from services that you provide to their parents?
DH: In my work with parents, I try to assist them first by helping them to communicate better with an emphasis on working to support the relationship the child has with each party. In addition, I try to assist parents in keeping the best boundary possible around their strong and often negative feelings about the other parent while in the presence of their children. I give examples to parents about how children internalize their conflict when exposed to it and overexposure could affect their emotional development. The parent education provided at FamilyKind is pivotal in further helping parents to understand these dynamics.
FK: Are you involved in any volunteer pursuits that you are passionate about?
DH: I wholeheartedly support volunteer efforts. Pursuits I have participated in that are related to my career have been invaluable both personally and professionally. As mentioned, for many of the years I was on the roster to present the Mental Health portion of the parent education at Family Court. We were a wonderful group of committed volunteer professionals, headed by Lesley Friedland, Esq., Founder and Executive Director of FamilyKind. One member cooked for everyone and was a “star” during the role plays. The questions asked by the litigants after they heard our legal and mental health information and small group discussions helped participants understand they were not alone in their matter that was before the Court.
Another experience that was invaluable taught me much about the importance of the mental health professional’s commitment to cultural competence. I was fortunate enough to be immersed in Native American culture for five (2) week seasons during the 1990’s where participants stayed on a reservation in San Diego County, CA and worked with the residents in a cultural exchange program. The experience helped me to know the pursuit of cultural competence is a lifelong process.