What is couples mediation?
All relationships go through periods of challenge when strong emotions and differences in beliefs can result in a temporary break-down in communication. When arguments and strong disagreements persist over a long period of time, trust is lost and separation, both emotional and physical, can result. Couples mediation is a process which facilitates clear communication and so opens the way for making reasoned and reasonable negotiations and exploring outcomes to which both parties can give their allegiance. This process allows both parties to express their strongly held views in a private, safe and skilfully managed environment.
Who is mediation for?
People who are experiencing challenges in their relationships and who have the maturity to recognise that they could communicate better with appropriate support from outside. Clearly, both parties need to be willing to participate in the process. However, this process is really useful in helping individuals deal with their own painful issues.
Why use couples mediation?
This approach is a compassionate and sensitive way of dealing with relationship challenges. It aims to bring about healing and respectful communication whether or not couples continue to live together. It is also more private and much less expensive than using solicitors. The legal approach can be very expensive in both emotional and material ways and frequently events run out of the control of the couple concerned. This will not happen in mediation. The legal approach is to deconstruct the relationship with lawyers on either side adopting an adversarial view of the situation which tends to increase stress and deepen negative feelings. This can lead to tense discussions around access to children, moving out of the family home and division of material possessions.
In the event that couples are going through the courts, mediation can be very relevant in bringing about healing and understanding in very difficult circumstances.
When should a couple seek mediation?
When conflict erupts around apparently trivial concerns although each person knows that there are fundamental issues which are not being resolved. When they know they need help – trust is breaking down, the atmosphere at home is increasingly difficult, when they can't overcome the barrier between them. Or when there is a lull in the conflict and they see an opportunity for improved communication.
How is this different from therapy?
Therapy tends to delve into the past and tends to take a long time, exploring problem areas. Mediation is about developing skills which will empower people to find solutions. It is much quicker and will usually take only four or five sessions over a short period of time. However, the process is informed by best practice from a number of approaches including The Work of Byron Katie, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and NLP.
The facilitation process involves the following sessions:
- Meeting with each party individually and defining her/his goals for the mediation process.
Introduction to the approach on which the process is based (exploring the realities of perception and projection).
- After each party has been through the above process separately, they come together to address the issues that have arisen. This session opens the way for greater compassion and a softening of attitudes.
- Opportunities to practice using the new approach which has been taught and negotiating for the future – coming to agreement about individual needs and preferences.
- Using this approach to explore the judgements and beliefs that underlie the challenges that are being experienced. This is where shifts begin to happen and individuals let go of resentments and blame.
In cases where couples need further facilitation or more practice with the model that is being learned, this can be arranged.
What's it like?
It's about learning new skills in communication and using these skills to address the difficulties that have arisen. People come with judgements about their partner and that's where the crucial aspect of the work begins. They are taught an approach which helps them to transform these judgements. This is a life-long tool which will enable them to deal with present and future difficulties. It's a relief to let go of blame. Once that happens, clearer communication can begin. All of this can be a lot less stressful than people imagine because they are actually learning to let go of stress in this process.
Each session can last between two and three hours with appropriate beaks. I work firstly with one partner individually and later with the other after which they come together for a further session where they can begin their clearer conversations. At this point, I facilitate the conversation, ensuring good listening. This needs to be done slowly and carefully. Conflict is frequently what happens when a conversation speeds up!
During all these sessions, communication skills are being taught, adding to the skills that the individuals have already acquired.
What is expected from clients?
A level of maturity to take part in a process which involves re-assessing beliefs and judgements and a willingness to listen to the other and respect her/his needs.
What are the advantages of mediation?
The advantages that this process offers are:
- A way to address the underlying feelings of conflict and resentment in a positive, hopeful and private environment
- A way to re-establish communication, good listening, co-operation, responsibility and an understanding of each other’s concerns
- A neutral, experienced facilitator who will ensure fairness and proper listening
- An opportunity to deal with difficult emotional issues that cause conflict and lack of agreement
- Introduction to a powerful conflict management tool
- Opportunity for each partner to reflect separately on their issues with the facilitator
- Bitterness is reduced and joint decisions are more likely to be honoured
- Negotiations can be carried out more respectfully.