Samantha Kolasa


Samantha trained as a psychologist and worked directly with clients before moving into senior management roles in the not for profit sector. She has worked across all levels of Government bringing a wealth of experience in stakeholder engagement and the development and implementation of programs within a partnership context. Samantha has a particular interest in marginalised, disadvantaged, vulnerable children and families and holds an MBA and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.


When the relationship between parents breaks down, conflict is a common experience. This conflict often impacts on the ability of parents to raise their children effectively (McIntosh & Chisholm, 2008). The lack of an effective parental alliance has been shown to have a detrimental effect to the wellbeing of children (Smyth, 2004). The problems associated with a lack of parental alliance can be magnified when the child engages in defiant behaviour, either in reaction to the separation, due to an underlying psychological disorder or both. Many psychological interventions for defiance, attentional and emotional regulation issues emphasise the importance of calming the family system and maintaining a unified parental approach (Barkley, 2013; Australian Psychological Society, 2010).

This presentation suggests approaches to addressing defiant behaviour as a result of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD) and Adjustment Disorder. Approaches are drawn from existing evidence based practice (Australian Psychological Society, 2010) and integrated with learnings from the Parenting after Separation program. Emphasis is placed on maintaining relationship boundaries between parents, not perpetuating conflict impacting children, boundaried grief of the relationship between parents, and supporting children with oppositional and challenging behaviours to transition between different parental environments.


The strength and quality of the relationship between parents is fundamental to the development of young people’s brain architecture, function and capacity for resilience. Children’s brains are impacted by experience and the emotional environment in which they live. Consistent, positive parental alliance has been found to be critical for optimal child mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. In times of transition, parental alliance can be weakened and traditional methods of problem solving interventions tend to be slow, rarely resulting in new vision and generates defensiveness. By harnessing the principles of neuroscience and activating the reward brain, when working with parents we can significantly contribute to increased problem solving, improved decision making and lasting change.
This interactive presentation will outline a holistic way of working with families where the child is the primary client. Through experiential exercises and case examples, participants will apply learning and discuss practice issues. The presentation will also include role playing scenarios and will provide:
• Observation of leader role-play utilising the model
• Opportunity to practice skills through role-playing case examples

Take away benefits for participants will include:
• Application of neuroscience principles to parent feedback and education
• Ways to empower parents to achieve positive outcomes for their young people
• Understanding of how current practice can engage the threat brain response and as such limit positive results
• Techniques of motivational interviewing when working with families
• Exploration of the parameters of confidentiality and safety as it relates to working with young people and parents.

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