Why Choose a Marriage & Family Therapist as a Mediator?
Many mediators have a legal background or are attorneys, so why choose a Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) as a mediator? First, when acting as a mediator, attorneys are ethically not allowed to give legal advice. They do bring a special skill set to mediation — attorneys are trained to spot legal issues, apply rules to facts, and draw conclusions. Sometimes MFTs work with attorneys.
An MFT mediator is uniquely trained to help families through difficult, emotionally charged situations such as a divorce, resolve disagreements and disputes, and lay the groundwork for an improved on-going relationship between the parties and their families after the divorce is over.
Clients often bring strong emotions to the mediation process, which can interfere with the productive resolution of issues. People want to be heard. It’s the reason why so many people say, “I just want my day in court.” Therapists are trained to closely follow a client’s narrative and listen to their stories. Therefore, the skills of a therapist make it less likely that the mediator will become impatient with a disputant’s pace or attempt to rush the process. Moreover, whereas attorney mediators tend to focus on the content of communication during mediation, therapists are trained to simultaneously attend to content and process of communication during mediation. The pain that people experience during divorce usually has more to do with the inherent adversarial nature of a traditional divorce, rather than the loss of the relationship.
Dealing with loss and grief is almost always a part of disagreements between family members – loss of relationship, loss of a dream, loss of identity, loss of social relationships, loss of financial security, etc. Beginning to come to terms with loss is an essential precondition for reaching a compromise in any dispute. MFTs are trained in helping people find meaning and dignity in their experience so that they can come to terms with loss and grief. Utilizing an MFT mediator allows for an openness that vastly improves the likelihood of successful mediation.
Because dispute resolution for families is outlined as an appropriate role for an MFT by their Texas licensing rules, family mediation services may be covered by health insurance benefits or Health Savings Accounts.
Mary Sanger is a trained mediator in divorce and family mediation.