While working out their divorce through mediation, clients will sometimes comment on the therapeutic effect of the process, both positive, “I was able to say things to my spouse that I had never been able to say before,” and sometimes negative, “This isn’t therapy, you know, let’s move on to the point.”
Many people are uncomfortable expressing emotions and state very clearly that they would rather just focus on making the necessary concrete decisions. However in times of divorce, while in the midst of discussing parenting schedules, division of property or even financial agreements, a flood of sentiments may emerge to the surface. Resentments may come in the way of resolutions, or the conversation may well open up a dialogue. I have even witnessed separating parties express apologies and forgiveness.
Some people may feel the need to seek help from a mental health professional during or after the mediation process. In cases where someone may also be struggling with depression, excessive anxiety, or some form of addiction, which can make it even more difficult for them to work through a divorce, additional mental health support most often will be needed.
The mediation process is certainly not therapy, but mediators, like mental health professionals, help people in crisis, encourage them to communicate better and assist them with relationships in transition. Each professional addresses these issues from a different perspective. I believe that as mediators we need to work hand in hand with mental health professionals to better assist our clients in coming to terms with their crisis so that they can better get on with their lives.
If you are a mental health professional and are interested in having a conversation with me on how we can help our clients better cope with the issues they encounter during a separation and/or divorce, please feel free to contact me.
Comments & Replies from Social Media
In divorce mediation, when the parties are stuck on issues, I try to introduce their mutual care for their children. It is, in most cases, a concern they can both appreciate and share. In high conflict couples, this is not always effective, but in any mediation there are those “aha” moments that send shivers along my spine as people discover what is really underneath the conflict for them. Psychologists probably are accustomed to witnessing these phenomena, but as a person from the financial planning profession, I was not. I am grateful and almost shy that they can so open themselves in the safety of the mediation space.
By Joyce Mitchel (via LinkedIn)
Good article Jennifer! I am always amazed when my divorcing clients tell me that they have never communicated so well as they did during their mediation. It gives me a great feeling to know that I was able to help them. I am also a big fan of recommending therapists to my clients during and after the process
By Roseann Vanella (via LinkedIn)
As mediators, we certainly do help people in crisis. How? We demonstrate empathy through reframing and active listening. It has been stated that although listening is generally in decline with attention spans dropping from 42 to 38 seconds, more people over time will pay professionals to listen to their financial, personal, and unmet needs.
By John Turley (via LinkedIn)
People often find themselves in a conflict trap where the dynamic of their conflict ensnares them both in its grip and the participants are unable, on their own, to escape. Mediators can often find a way to interrupt the usual dynamic and help people find a way to communicate more effectively around difficult conversations.
By Katherine Miller (via LinkedIn)
jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator divorce and family mediation upper east side of manhattan (nyc) new york, ny (212) 472-8626 firstname.lastname@example.org connect on