Perishable Skills

by Mark Weiss July 09, 2013


Who doesn’t want to be on their top game? If we want to “play” at that top level, we have to combat the phenomenon that gradually and subtly erodes our skills to work effectively in Collaborative cases. Specifically, I am talking about protecting the skills needed to effectively help clients work towards joint decisions based on their own values and needs, and the skills needed to be effective with conflict. As time goes by, we can revert to old habits if we haven’t formed new ones. I have seen this in myself.

Airline pilots are required to have recurrent training every six months. Studies show that intensive recurrent training of these highly skilled aviation professionals makes a big difference in airline safety; proficiency declines even for pilots who fly airplanes many times a week. Although we may have fewer “passengers” on our cases, our work as Collaborative professionals is no less important to the well-being of our clients and their families. Our skills likewise erode.

It seems we cannot gain competency or maintain proficiency unless we practice our new skills with some frequency and regularly engage in ongoing learning, whether through practice group discussions or trainings or reading. And, since none of us use all our skills on every case, those skills that have not been recently used are particularly prone to rust. Like the Olympic athlete whose muscles atrophy when he stops training, the skills we once mastered decline when we don’t regularly use them.

Should Collaborative practitioners be required to have recurrent training? How do we stay on our top game?

Comments (2) -
7/9/2013 9:19:44 PM #


Thank you for initiating this discussion.  

I experienced a Collaborative case last year where the other attorney, over a lunch I initiated so that we could get to know each other before our case started, laughingly stated that he had not taken a Collaborative Training since the basic training over ten years ago.  His Collaborative skills were not just rusty, they were in shambles.  The saving grace of the case was that he sat aside and watched me guide the case to the point that the final resolution was reached without him in the room.  The final result was good, it was ultimately built by the clients, my client complimented me by saying I "was unlike any attorney" she ever met, his client has been referring cases to me, and it gave me a wonderful opportunity to draw on skills and combination of skills that helped stretch my Collaborative wings.

Even had I not had this experience my answer to your query is a unqualified yes, we should all be required to have continuing collaborative education on an annual basis, and to report our continued trainings.   My hope is that each Collaborative Practitioner would not have to be told to take continuing education, that our interest in Collaboration and our desire to be the best practitioner that we can be would lead us to seek trainings without there being such a requirement.  

In one of our local practice groups we started a discussion about making continuing education a requirement for renewing our membership each year.  I am in favor of such a requirement and think it easy to have a window on the website in which we can report what trainings we took in the prior year.  

Some commented that if we had such a requirement the practice group would lose some people.

To that I commented, what's more important, the number of Collaborative Practitioners, or the quality.  I think for both our Clients and our Collaborative Communities that quality trumps quantity any time.

My personal feeling is that I want to work with quality, committed Collaborative Practitioners, not someone who takes the basic collaborative training just so they can hold themselves out as being Collaborative.  

Let's train away.

View my profile on
7/16/2013 11:17:23 AM #

Thanks, Mark, for raising this question.  We have struggled with this in Massachusetts and are gradually trying to incorporate additional training and peer group meeting participation requirements for our members--both important for maintaining and developing skills.

Collaborative Practice is much more mature than it was when so many of us first trained.  What we have learned in the interim is important to being the best resources for our clients and needs to be shared.  

I hope your posting encourages more discussion.

View my profile on

Add comment

  • Comment
  • Preview


The Bigger Conversation

Be a part of the conversation! Learn about the latest thoughts, trends and developments in Collaborative Practice from IACP’s Brain Trust, and then join the discussion with other members across the globe. This is your opportunity to be heard; share your experience, knowledge and insights with the rest of us. We’ll all benefit.

Our Featured Bloggers will rotate over time. If you are interested in becoming a Featured Blogger and posting regularly, please contact us at We also welcome periodic submissions from Guest Bloggers. If you have a post to share as a guest, please send your post to us at



Month List