My journey to understanding the importance of insight mediation skills began with watching the magical Elizabeth Sterritt as she co-planned the new curriculum for the new Ontario Association for Family Mediation accreditation for “elder mediation” (now Intergenerational Mediation) with myself and Director Mary-Ann Popescu. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the difference I saw in her approach and yet I knew I wanted more. Over time Elizabeth introduced us to the Insight Mediation approach and Dr. Cheryl Picard and my journey to understanding the insight view and the specific skills began. Insight skills really teach us to pay attention to the reasons people disagreeing something escalate to being in conflict about the thing they disagree upon. How things become interpreted and misinterpreted and how that atmosphere blocks learning, and in fact blocks true listening. Escalation and the entrenchment of patterns ensues and very quickly people are locked in the threat/defend pattern. A fundamental principle underscoring the way we teach mediation at INSIGHTful Mediation Training is that we believe families need more than a “settlement”. They need to learn how to resolve conflict and improve communication and insight skills focus on helping them start to see how these patterns can prevent them from having the conversations they need to have. In the end, they could still feel the fear, or the threat, associated with limited resources, sharing a child or making new housing arrangements, but they will have a better understanding of how that fear has led them to misinterpret or misunderstand the fear or threat experienced by the other partner as well.
My current favorite way to describe what mediators do is that we provide a space and place for people to have a difficult conversation.
How “big” or “small” that space can be is dependent on the skill of the mediator and their belief about what mediation is and can be. There are approaches that range from purely evaluative mediation where hired “experts” are really providing “solutions” to clients, perhaps with no underlying understanding of the emotional needs, to mediations with purely facilitative processes where mediators will not provide “information” to clients and where expressing emotions may be discouraged as unproductive. I would suggest that family breakdown and the task of renegotiating family relationships calls out for mediators with the skills to allow for the complexity emotional needs bring to the task of separation. Human beings are incredibly complex, with diverse personalities, perspectives and interests. The complexities of human interactions, coupled with the varying emotional states separating families navigate, means handling emotions is a fundamental aspect of mediation. Successful family mediators recognize the significance of working with emotions and effectively integrating them into the mediation process. In this blog, we delve into why mediators need to work with emotions and how this understanding can lead to more productive and lasting resolutions. Note that research, including that of the American Bar Association, has recognized that dealing with emotions effectively is a component of mediator success.
1. Understanding Emotions Facilitates Communication:
Emotions are a natural part of human experience and often drive our actions and reactions. In a mediation setting, individuals come with their emotions, which can range from frustration and anger to sadness or confusion. Mediators who understand these emotional states can facilitate more effective communication by acknowledging and validating these emotions. This acknowledgment creates an environment where participants feel heard and understood, paving the way for a more constructive dialogue. It begins in an intake session with the mediator acknowledging them as part of the rapport building process and extends to the joint session where the mediator can skillfully help a party express them in a constructive way.
2. Emotions Influence Decision-Making:
Emotions play a crucial role in decision-making. When parties in a mediation are emotionally distressed, their decision-making abilities may be compromised. Mediators need to help participants manage their emotions, so they can make rational and well-considered decisions. This involves assisting them in recognizing the impact of emotions on their judgments and helping them see that solutions that align with their long-term interests are more important than satisfying their short-term emotional reactions. The emotions surrounding fear and the threat/defend patterns that insight mediators work with are particularly important.
3. Addressing Emotional Needs Builds Trust:
Mediation involves building trust and fostering a safe environment for open communication. Acknowledging and addressing the emotional needs of the parties involved can significantly contribute to building this trust. When individuals feel heard, respected, and supported in managing their emotions, they are more likely to engage in the mediation process in a collaborative and open-minded manner. This is not an easy task. It involves holding space for the person expressing and the person distressing over that expression. It also involves, in my experience, the ability to know when to give private space, i.e. move into caucus, and when to come back together to “try again”.
4. Addressing the Emotional Needs of the Children:
It is also important to help families understand the emotional needs of their children. Mediators accredited by the Ontario Association for Family Mediation are required by their Standards to do so. Talking about how the children have been impacted by the separation, and the anticipated needs they will have in the foreseeable future is grounding to parents who truly want the best for their children but are unable to figure out the “how” to do it. Mediators can provide information about the impact on children, talk about communication and even how to talk to the children and support their healing.
5. Promoting Emotional Healing and Closure:
Conflict around the time of separation often leave individuals emotionally wounded. Mediation is an opportunity to not only resolve the dispute but also facilitate emotional healing and closure. Mediators who work with emotions can help parties express their feelings, acknowledge the impact of the conflict on them, and find a path forward that promotes healing and closure. This not only aids in resolving the present conflict but also in preventing future disputes.
6. Emotions Drive Sustainable Agreements:
Ultimately, a successful mediation results in a mutually agreed-upon resolution that stands the test of time. When emotions are effectively integrated into the mediation process, agreements are more likely to address the underlying emotional concerns of the parties. This leads to more sustainable and enduring resolutions that have a higher likelihood of being honored and respected by all involved.
In conclusion, emotions are an integral part of mediation, and mediators who recognize and work with emotions can create a more productive and empathetic mediation environment. By understanding, acknowledging, and addressing emotions, mediators can guide parties towards solutions that are not only legally sound but emotionally safe and conducive to lasting peace and harmony. This is particularly important where there are children who will be impacted for years to come.
In today’s rapidly changing legal landscape, the demand for alternative dispute resolution methods is on the rise. Family mediation, with its focus on collaboration and effective communication, has emerged as a game-changer in resolving conflicts within families. For legal professionals looking to broaden their horizons and make a positive impact on their clients’ lives, INSIGHTful Mediation Training offers the perfect opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in family mediation.
- Meet Growing Client Needs: Clients are seeking more than just courtroom battles to resolve family disputes. They crave personalized and empathetic approaches that can preserve relationships while reaching fair and lasting agreements. INSIGHTful Mediation Training equips legal professionals with the expertise to meet these demands, providing a unique value proposition that sets them apart in today’s competitive legal market. We teach the insight approach which vastly increases the chances clients will feel that their need for less conflict has been met.
- Develop Essential Mediation Skills: Mediating family disputes requires a distinct set of skills beyond those used in traditional litigation. INSIGHTful Mediation Training’s comprehensive curriculum hones crucial competencies, including active listening, problem-solving, and handling client’s high emotions. Participants learn to navigate complex emotional dynamics, allowing them to facilitate productive discussions and guide families toward mutually beneficial resolutions.
- Expand Your Legal Practice: By incorporating family mediation into your skillset, you open the door to a whole new realm of legal opportunities. Family mediation is applicable in various scenarios, including divorce settlements, parenting arrangements, and estate planning disputes. INSIGHTful Mediation Training empowers legal professionals to expand their practice, attract diverse clientele, and generate new streams of revenue.
- Enhance Client Satisfaction: This is a big one. Family mediation’s non-adversarial nature fosters a more positive experience for clients. Having mediation skills helps you pick mediators for your other files that will meet your client’s particular needs. INSIGHTful Mediation Training empowers lawyers to provide customized solutions tailored to the unique needs of each family, resulting in higher client satisfaction and increased referrals. Happy clients translate into a flourishing legal practice and a rewarding professional journey.
- Promote Peaceful Conflict Resolution: As a family mediator, you become a catalyst for harmony and understanding within families. By encouraging constructive dialogue and collaborative problem-solving, INSIGHTful Mediation Training enables legal professionals to make a genuine difference in people’s lives. The satisfaction of helping families navigate difficult times and emerge stronger is unparalleled.
- Stay Ahead in the Legal Industry: The legal landscape is ever-evolving, and clients are increasingly drawn to innovative, client-centered approaches. INSIGHTful Mediation Training equips legal professionals with the cutting-edge knowledge and techniques required to stay ahead of the curve. By mastering family mediation, lawyers position themselves as trailblazers and pioneers in their field.
Our training presents an extraordinary opportunity for legal professionals to transform their careers and become agents of positive change in families’ lives. By developing the essential skills, expanding their practice, and embracing a client-centric approach, participants can truly stand out in the legal industry. So, if you’re ready to take your legal career to new heights and embark on a fulfilling journey of family mediation, INSIGHTful Mediation Training is the gateway to your success. Embrace this transformative experience and be a driving force in promoting peaceful resolutions within families, as lawyers like David C have done: “My experience as a student across Jennifer’s courses was transformative. People talk about a ‘paradigm shift’ being required to successfully enter the world of mediation and consensual dispute resolution and it’s true. I experienced that paradigm shift in Jennifer’s courses because of the highly interactive, probing, and challenging roleplays. As family lawyers we often sit through continuing professional development courses that are uninspiring. Jennifer’s courses are inspiring and engaging in a way that facilitates the paradigm shift required to understand and develop the skills of a successful mediator”.
Don’t forget to check out our Working Professionals format with a convenient monthly payment plan so you can do the training in the evening!
Watch for our upcoming course on Administration in Mediation Practice! Lead Trainer Jennifer Suzor and Administrative Assistant Jocelyn Caron will lead a training on all of the essential requirements necessary to set up a mediation practice, organize, “sell” your services, develop and use intake forms, set up appointments, track billing and bill, continuously screen for domestic violence, make referrals and promote your business. More details will be shared soon! Hold the date of October 17, 2023 from noon to 2 p.m.
We’ve recently updated our name – from Family Mediation Training Canada to INSIGHTful Mediation Training – and could not be more excited about this. For those who have trained with me before you are aware of the importance I placed on dealing with the families in front of us fully, meaning that our techniques can actually help them process through difficult emotions and find the space and place in our work to map out a new way of dealing with each other, and the future. Where there are children involved, there couldn’t be more important work. Part of my growth over the past few years has been due to the excellent mentorship of Dr. Cheryl Picard and Elizabeth Sterritt. As I have embraced the insight mediation approach it only made sense to ensure that all of our courses allow other future mediators to learn the techniques as well. I am also excited to announce our new format for working professionals who want to become family mediators. In late September, early October 2022 we are going to offer our entire course package in a personal weekly zoom format, with three Saturday’s as well, taking the trainee through the entire courses in an exciting new way. Instead of taking each course “one by one”, we will structure the modules to flow in a way that will make sense for the learner. For example, you will hear about child support law one week with Cynthia Nantais followed the next by learning how to mediate child support cases with Jennifer Suzor. We have structured the modules to flow in a way that makes so much sense to us and we are excited to publish more details later this month. Hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful summer and ready to take some exciting courses this Fall!