Mediators and Mental Health Professionals: Working Together to Help Our Clients Through a Divorce

Mediators and Mental Health Professionals: Working Together to Help Our Clients Through a Divorce By Susan Ingram

{3:20 minutes to read}

Did you know that divorce and marital separation are the 2nd and 3rd most significant stressors in an individual’s life?

Studies conducted by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe in 1970 identified the Top Stressors in a person’s life. Their research continues to be valid, even 45 years later. Here’s their list of the Top Ten, in order of significance:

  • Death of a spouse
  • Divorce
  • Marital separation
  • Imprisonment
  • Death of a close family member
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Marriage
  • Dismissal from work
  • Marital reconciliation
  • Retirement

Due to its very nature, I believe that the work of divorce mediators is particularly challenging, and also incredibly rewarding. Clearly, the couples who come to us are going through one of the most difficult experiences of their life. A good mediator must have a keen sense of empathy and also move the couple through the mediation process in a very pragmatic way.

Among the questions I ask each of the parties in my initial intake form is whether they’ve seen an individual therapist or a couples therapist before coming to me. Although knowledge of this information is not essential for me to proceed with my work, it can be helpful to know, since therapists can provide such meaningful support during this most stressful of times.

There is a complementary, yet distinct, nature to the work of divorce mediators and therapists. Clearly, we share a common bond of caring deeply about our clients. As a mediator, I am not treating my clients’ psychological issues.

  • My role is to guide the couple forward into the future, so that they move on constructively with their separate lives.
  • The therapist’s role is to support their clients and help them understand the dynamics of the past so they can more comfortably inhabit the present and ultimately move forward into the future.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about Integrated Team Mediation. Mental health professionals are among the most important specialists that I may need to refer my couples to while we are going through the mediation process. I may suggest that:

  • The couple see a therapist together if they are having serious problems with communication which interfere with the mediation process.
  • An individual client may benefit from working with his or her own therapist.
  • If the couple has children, they may want to consult with a child specialist about the child’s developmental needs or other issues.

For me, sometimes the supportive nature of this Integrated Team approach calls to mind the traditional African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Each supporting player has an important role in helping the couple through this extremely challenging and stressful period of their lives.

 

Comments from Social Media

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The team approach you mention makes so much sense in supporting families with both challenges: dealing with a difficult and complicated transition, while simultaneously planning for a new family structure, roles and obligations.

Charlotte Carter, Executive Director NYSDRA

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Excellent article. As a divorce mediator, I also work closely with LMFTs. I find that we nearly always see things very similarly and we therefore can easily be complementary resources for each other.

John Morrison, Divorce Mediator & DFA

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Susan, I couldn’t agree more! As a Professional Family Mediator I am always thrilled when my clients have either gone to a therapist or are going. I often refer clients to therapist whether it be for them as couples, separately or the family.

Roseann Vanella, Family/Divorce Mediator

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2 responses on “Mediators and Mental Health Professionals: Working Together to Help Our Clients Through a Divorce

  1. Dr. L. E. Kauffman

    This material is much needed and well formatted and written.

    I do Conflict Resolution, and Divorce Mediation. All you are involved in preserving peace in inner-personal conflict will find this material as excellent.

  2. John Hind

    Susan, I am afraid that this is a short comment due to time pressures but when i read this and your blog about integrated team mediation i just had to respond and draw your attention to the home page of a project i have been working on for a few years now with http://www.familymediationteamuk.com which is a team mediation model based on a integrated family mediation model and the process of mediation ‘teaming’. It is a not for profit org set up to raise the profile of this area of work whilst offering a regional platform to those who wish to build their own integrate mediation teams to promote.
    i would be very happy to chat about this area of work some time.
    Best wishes and keep sharing,
    John

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