Don Saposnek Interview
Recorded by Robert Benjamin on March 1, 2019
Don Saposnek, Ph.D. has been a practicing Clinical Child Psychologist since 1971, and a child custody and family mediator, trainer and consultant since 1977. He was on the Psychology Faculty of the University of California, Santa Cruz for 41 years, and, since 2009, remains as an Adjunct Professor at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. He writes prolifically, and he is the Editor-in-Chief for the publications of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, Editorial Board member of several professional journals, and the author of the highly regarded 1983 text, Mediating Child Custody Disputes, now in its second edition (1998), More recently, with Bill Eddy he co-authored Splitting America: How Politicians, Super Pacs and the News Media Mirror High Conflict Divorce (2012). He was initially drawn to mediation practice after having observed how families and children were often more fractured than helped by the legal and therapeutic systems with which they had to deal in order to manage life events like marriage and divorce.
While still dedicated to using negotiative processes in his practice, he observes how he has shifted in his approach: "I now have somewhat lower expectations of what I believe can be accomplished in mediation than I did when I first began. The data show that there has been a dramatic increase in complexity of the issues families face; there is a number of external forces and systemic factors that escalate the intensity and stress people face, such as domestic violence, alcohol and drugs, and multiple marriages. My work is no longer simply about solving problems, but about balancing polarities. This is difficult work that requires patience and disciplined attention, and I am concerned that the technologically-biased culture encourages the public and professionals—including mediators—to have expectations for instant results."