Are you and your spouse deciding on whether or not to go to mediation? Is your attorney recommending mediation instead of a costly court battle? Is the court in your state requiring mediation before going in front of the judge in your divorce case? Whatever the reason you may be choosing mediation or being required to go to mediation, do you know what to expect?

Most people have never been to mediation before. Even if you know a little bit about the process, it can be scary and intimidating.

But does it work? That depends – and it depends on many factors.

I’ve conducted many divorce and child custody mediations and I see so many successes, but there are some failures, and here is what can help prevent that.

What would it be like to walk into your mediation and know what to expect, feel confident and in control of your emotions, and have a plan and list of proposals?

Sounds good, but what if you’re dealing with a spouse who has a history of:

  • Using intimidation to get what they want 
  • Blaming others for the problem – spouse, attorney, court, etc.
  • Not taking responsibility for their actions
  • Focusing on the past
  • All-or-nothing thinking

If one of the parties in mediation has these tendencies, then we are dealing with a high-conflict personality and this creates a challenging environment for mediation.

But it does not make it impossible to reach a settlement agreement.

With these high-conflict clients, we’re dealing with a long-standing pattern of dysfunction in both thinking and behaviors.

This person has unmanaged emotions, and extreme behaviors both in and out of mediation. 

That preoccupation with one or more targets of blame leads to an inability to be able to problem solve and make good, rational decisions.

You may hear things like “I’m right, I’m the victim here, the judge will see that I’m right and this mediation is never going to work.”

The bottom line is that a high conflict person has a high level of blame.

They may shift the blame to their spouse, the attorneys, the court, etc.

They are the victim and they are not at fault.

So how can pre-mediation coaching help?

As a Licensed Provider for Bill Eddy’s New Ways for Families Pre-Mediation Coaching, I work with one or both parties to give them a better outcome in their mediation and relieve so much of the anxiety and emotional overwhelm people feel in mediation.

If your spouse is high-conflict and has some of the characteristics I’ve described, pre-mediation coaching can give you the skills you need to feel more confident.

Pre-Mediation Coaching is a skills-based model that involves four skills that can improve the chances for a successful mediation.

The 4 Basic Skills we work together on are:

  1.   Flexible Thinking
  2.   Managed Emotions
  3.   Moderate Behaviors
  4.   Checking Yourself

Flexible thinking is a 3-step method of making proposals, asking questions, and responding to proposals.

Managed emotions will provide you with ways to deal with anger, sadness, fear, and anxiety so that you can react using the problem-solving, rational, decision-making part of the brain.

Moderate behaviors involves using skills that create an environment for good communication – using “I” statements, taking turns, etc., and asking for breaks.

Checking yourself means looking to see if when you’re talking about a difficult or upsetting issue, you’re using these skills to help yourself.

Pre-Mediation Coaching is designed to be used by professionals including coaches, mediators, mental health professionals, and attorneys.

It is offered to both parties individually and can be completed in one or two sessions.

Ideally, pre-mediation coaching is done a few days or the week before mediation. This will give you time to work through and practice the skills.

Even if you are dealing with a high-conflict spouse who refuses to do pre-mediation coaching, the skills you will learn and practice will give you so much confidence and will eliminate the uncertainty about what to expect in your mediation.

Not only will you learn ways to have a better mediation outcome, you will learn ways to handle your spouse’s negative reactions after mediation.

If you will be co-parenting, the skills you will learn will help you respond to the sabotaging behaviors we often see in high-conflict people.

You will have a system of handling nasty emails and negative communication that you can use for the future.

You will learn communication skills you can use in every part of your life and in all of your relationships as you move forward into the next chapter of your life.

Karen Dorsey, M.Ed. is a Certified Divorce Coach®️, Certified Co-Parenting Specialist, and a Family Mediator.

She was a school counselor and therapist in private practice working primarily with children, teenagers, and families.

After her own unexpected divorce after a long-term marriage, she became passionate about helping individuals and families navigate through the divorce process.

Divorcing is a life-shattering event with so many painful emotions.

Dealing with the grief and loss of a relationship, the anger, hurt, fear, etc. makes it so difficult to make good decisions about your life.

“I believe all individuals need to have a “dream team” of people to support them through this emotionally overwhelming time so they can feel confident that they’re making the best decisions about their future lifestyle.”

Download my Free Smart Guide to Navigating Divorce and learn 10 tips you must know if you’re divorcing.

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