We practice family mediation with a specialty in Elder and Adult Family mediation and Parent and Teen mediation. Our focus is on communication between family members and preserving family relationships. Most people associate mediation with labor disputes and divorce. It’s a great product we are selling, but most people do not know what it is. Instead they make assumptions, and they are often so far off the mark.
Mediation is a form of conflict resolution. There are a lot of similarities between what we do and what mediators are trying to accomplish in the Middle East. (A mediator in that region told me he would rather work with the parties from countries there than the combative families we see.) In both cases, people can not reach agreement on an issue, are stuck in their positions, and can no longer speak civilly to one another without someone facilitating the conversation and insuring it’s productive.
The families we work with are usually at the crisis point. There has been a dispute going on, in some instances for years, their conversations are confrontational, and a crisis or imminent decision necessitates a discussion that they are not capable of having. The tension effects the quality of life for all concerned and possibly has disastrous consequences for the family.
Mediation is about communication. We work with parents and teens. They sit and have a facilitated conversation without rancor, and learn to really listen to what each is saying, the words and the inference. We work with adult siblings who are disagreeing over the care of their elderly parents. We help them focus on the issues that they identify and get them to realize that ‘it’s not about you, it’s about your mother’, getting past the old arguments to address the immediate problem.
So why mediators? It’s about the neutrality. Often when we meet with potential referral sources, like elder lawyers or geriatric care managers, or staff at senior facilities, and we describe our services, they assure us that their clients do not need our services because they mediate disputes between their clients themselves. Sometimes this might well be the case, but more often, it’s unlikely that they can do it. What stands in their way is either a conflict of interest, or the perception of one. The reason to refer to us is that we are truly neutral. Mediators have no individual client or conflict, have never seen the parties, and are unlikely to see them again. Our neutrality allows us to focus on the dispute and the way in which family members talk to one another. As mediators, our primary objective is that everyone at the table has an opportunity to express their concerns and be heard. Through this process, families are able to reach an agreeable resolution without further deterioration of their family relationships. We take our neutrality seriously and we think that element of mediation gives the process credibility and gives family members the assurance that their concerns matter and will be addressed fairly.
We do not do casework, will not give legal advice or perform any legal services, are not offering financial advice, and are not with a company invested in the process. We work with your clients, resolve their disputes so they can make plans and decisions, and then we send them back to you after the decisions are made and they are ready for action. At the end of a mediation session, we will often give everyone a list of possible resources: elder lawyers, financial consultants, geriatric care managers, organizers, and senior facilities. We will not recommend anyone specifically, but we hand out the list to help them with next steps, to keep the momentum going. As my friend in public relations so indelicately put it, ‘You deal with all the **** so other people can work with them’.
Would Abbas go to the table if someone in Netanyahu’s government is mediating? Would you want a conflict with your wife mediated by her mother? Trusting that the person in between the parties is unbiased, is key to a successful mediation. That’s why you refer to a mediator. If there is a dispute that the parties can not resolve themselves, that’s when you refer to a mediator.
Comments? We’d love to hear from you. We welcome conversation.