Mediation Behind Closed Doors – Part III: How Is Your Process Structured Differently?
In this 3-part series, I have been discussing nuances of our mediation process, to help those who have never been part of a mediation process understand… what exactly IS mediation?
Today, I would like to discuss why you may find some mediation firms who mediate with one mediator, two mediators, sometimes a man and woman, sometimes two women, sometimes two men…and on and on. There are many different ways in which firms practice mediation…both with the number, background, sexual orientation, etc. Everyone has their own way of doing things. Realistically, there is no wrong way to practice, so long as the mediator(s) is competent in what they are doing. So, let’s assume the mediators are all competent… therefore, there is no “wrong way”.
So… you must be thinking… well, how is your process structured? And Why?
In a typical divorce mediation scenario, our process at San Diego Family Mediation Center includes only one mediator. This is intentional and here is why.
I have co-mediated in the past, both with another female and also with another male mediator. While I find it fantastic in blended family mediations, or other types of mediations involving more than 2 people, in divorce mediations I truly have not found it to be any more efficient or useful to have two professionals in the room, if one will suffice. All it seems to do is raise costs for the client (because now you are paying for two professionals, instead of one).
Further, I find (as a female mediator) that the women I work with appreciate that I am sympathetic and empathetic to their situation. I am a mother. I am once divorced, I have overcome tremendous turmoil in my own life. Therefore, I can relate to them on many levels.
When it comes to men I work with, I have found that they appreciate I can connect with their wife. Especially in cases where the wife has been at home for a long duration and is terrified to be back out in the working force… I am very sensitive to these feelings, and I have spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas and making connections to help people get back into the workforce, if it is necessary they do so.
Also, I often find the husband has no one to talk to about how he feels, how this divorce has impacted him, and his fears for the future. His fears may be very different, and often surround his ability to parent and see his children regularly. Clearly, I am making a LOT of assumptions and speaking of very stereotypical situations, but the theory behind my belief is that it is not necessary to include a man and a woman mediator, for both the male and female perspective to be protected. This theory applies to these situations, as well as those when the wife is the breadwinner and the husband is the stay at home dad… the roles and fears are just reversed. It also applies to same sex couples, because often times we are still dealing with one parent who has held the lion’s share of the parenting while the other spouse is the breadwinner.
I guess this is the bottom line; I am naturally drawn to situations of chaos with a deep desire to help. I am a fortunate soul, in that I do not carry the emotional turmoil with me. I can take it all in and let it go once I have completed the session with that client. However, my clients are still always on my mind. I spend my days thinking of the best way to help my clients. I care very much for my clients, which is perhaps why I feel an obligation to them, long after the file is closed. And I know many of my clients feel this, because they will reach out to me year after year, with questions, concerns, or new issues that need resolving. It warms my heart when I hear back from previous clients (not because they need help) but because it tells me they truly trust me. They trust that I have done my best while helping them to navigate the rough waters of their personal situation.
That trust is what enhances the passion I have for my career each and every day. That trust is what holds me tight when I can’t help someone, no matter how hard I try, because they just don’t want to be helped. I work very hard at making myself the best “ME” I can be so that I can give you all my best. I take time to listen to my inner voice and trust my instincts with every couple I work with. I know my practice will not single-handedly change the world, but I can’t help but feel that each time I help a couple walk the path of friendship and respect when they leave my office, that it helps to change the world that my clients live in, and the world they share with their children. And when children can watch their parents behave in a respectful and friendly way, even amongst the toughest of times, that teaches them an amazing lesson of forgiveness, love and compassion that they will carry with them for the rest of their days. It will change how they treat people in their lives, as they grow. And this is the gift I try to give to each and every client. Peace.