Monday, January 7, 2008

What is the HCP Theory?

After writing and teaching about High Conflict Personalities for the past 7 years, I finally decided to sit down and write the theory in a nutshell—right here! HCPs are people with High Conflict Personalities. The essence of the theory is that its not issues, but personalities that drive high-conflict disputes. And people with these personalities appear to have the same characteristics as Cluster B personality disorders or traits of personality disorders. This is good news, because mental health researchers have developed a lot of basic information about the patterns of personality disorders and how to deal with them. I have found in my practices as an attorney, mediator, and therapist that the same methods work with high-conflict personalities that work with personality disorders.

So what I write and teach is how to apply this mental health knowledge and skills to conflict resolution work. It’s not therapy, because the goal is not to change the person’s ongoing behavior, but to help the person (and those they get into conflicts with) to manage or resolve these conflicts. And it’s very important to know that non-therapists should not be trying to diagnose personality disorders or traits in those who get into high-conflict disputes. So attorneys, mediators, and other conflict resolution professionals should just recognize that people who are very rigid, uncompromising, emotionally overwhelmed, and blaming may have High Conflict Personalities and need special handling. There’s no magic to it—it just takes learning to do the opposite of what you feel like doing in many high-conflict situations.

Check back soon for tips to help you deal with HCP's!