Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Marital Mediation vs. Divorce Mediation

I have heard of mediators specializing in keeping couples together but until now I have not understood fully how it works or how it is different from traditional couples therapy. Here is a link to an article I came across about a marital mediator in Westport, Connecticut, which provides more insight into this interesting area.

As a divorce and family law mediator myself, I am always interested in providing other avenues for couples to explore to help keep the marriage together. I always ask couples if they have tried marriage counseling, whether there were aspects of the therapy that either of them found helpful, etc. As the person who meets with both individuals at the end of their marriage, and as the person who will be guiding them through their divorce, I want the couple to know that they have tried everything they could to stay together before deciding on divorce. If couples have not visited a counselor together, I suggest it if I think it might be useful (although there are times when such a suggestion is simply inappropriate, and is therefore left out of my discussion).

If anyone has been through a marital mediation process, I would be interested in hearing about it because nothing is better than finding out that a potential divorce mediation couple will not become clients because they have worked out their issues with another professional and will be staying together for the right reasons. Here is the full article:

Counselor offers different way to help heal a marriage


WILTON — For those couples who don't think that traditional marriage counseling is for them, Wilton mediator Susan K. Boardman has an alternative solution for them to try.

Boardman uses Marital Mediation to help couples who come to her Westport-based practice, a counseling technique that uses mediation to create new relationship behaviors and better communication and understanding, she said.

"Marital Mediation uses the same techniques as divorce mediation but the goal is different," said Boardman, who has a Ph.D in social psychology. "Marital Mediation works through conflict to try and create new ways to prevent divorce or separation."
According to Michael Becker, an attorney and accountant who specializes in divorce mediation in Wesport, there is a very small bridge between divorce mediation and marital mediation.

"I think that the goals and skill set for Marital Mediation is probably identical to divorce mediation in a way," said Becker. "They both identify and organize the problems couples are having in their relationship and help keep couples calm and diffuse conflict."

Boardman has had a private practice for the past six years as a family mediator, and has been using marital mediation for the past three years. According to Boardman, Marital Mediation comes up with a more concrete way to fix a couples problems.

"I find that in marriage couples either ignore problems or just sit on them," said the Wilton resident. "With Marital Mediation I find out what is causing the problem, like other mediators or therapists do and then make a written contract for the couple that will work out specific ways to solve the problems."

According to Boardman, there are four different areas that make up Marital Mediation. There is the perception of the problem and how to change it, coming up with a way to negotiate that problem, finding out how each person perceives themselves and the perception of the solutions to fix the problem.

Boardman says she uses different techniques for Marital Mediation such as using a "feedback loop," which is when couples will take one hour in their week to sit down and talk to each other about how they feel. She says she also uses flashcards in her sessions, with a patient talk to his or her partner and holding up a red, green or yellow card to show the emotions they are feeling at the time.

"Marital Mediation is really a different kind of therapy," said Boardman. "It lets couples test out all different ways to find a solution and ends up being a shorter process than other therapy."

According to Boardman, the Marriage Mediation process takes anywhere from two to six, two-hour sessions, which are usually completed in three to four weeks, depending on the couples' schedule. There are also various couple-related conflicts which Marital Mediation can help, such as career issues, lack of communication, intimacy issues, financial disputes and many more, she said.

"I help people develop new behavioral guidelines, rather than trying to figure out the psychological explanation of why couples act the way they do," said Boardman. "It gives couples the ability to eventually solve their own problems."

Susan Boardman's counseling practice is located at 252 Post Road East in Westport. She also has a Web site, www.maritalmediationworks.com, where visitors can learn more about Marital Mediation.

"I really believe that Marital Mediation works," said Boardman. "It's so simple and generates many options for couples, it helps couples focus on the future and stay in the future."