The Impact of Mediation on Mental Health

2022 APFM Conference Workshop Takeaway Tool, with Kimberly Cavanaugh, Dan Berstein, Alice Shikina, Nicole, and Beth Aarons

PROTECT MENTAL HEALTH

  • Be Sensitive
    Be sensitive to what is happening, and aware people come in with different lived experiences.
  • Practice Transparently
    Be transparent about your decisions, your practices, and who you are in order to build a sense of trust and safety.
  • Prevent Stigma
    Prevent the usage of shaming language, microaggressions, and stigmatizing frames of mental health.
  • Empower People
    Respect client autonomy, privacy, and self-determination – and avoid judgments about anyone’s mental health.
  • Embrace Community
    Encourage communication and connections including personal, work, community, and support resources.

MITIGATE THREATS TO MENTAL HEALTH

  • Appreciate Resource Deficits
    Recognize there is often a shortage or lack of access to resources when it comes to mental health.
  • Stop Stereotypes
    Be alert to microaggressions implying dangerousness, inferiority, or other stereotypes inappropriately associated with mental health conditions.
  • Promote Hope and Connectivity
    Provide all clients equal opportunities to see they can be connected instead of isolated, while respecting their autonomy.
  • Take It Seriously
    Anyone can have a private, serious mental health condition so treat anyone’s feelings seriously and supportively, offering support to all instead of singling out just the situations that seem serious to you.

POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF MEDIATION

When done right, mediation can empower people, help them feel heard, validate their dignity, and help everyone be more empathetic.  It can also be a disempowering experience that reinforces biases and stigmas about mental health, which is why it is important for mediators to be careful and diligent to follow the empowering practices on the following page.

SUGGESTIONS FOR EMPOWERING PRACTICES

  • Keep It Universal
    Don’t make guesses about anyone’s possible mental health situation or single people out.  Instead, create universal practices of offering options to all parties and let them know the support you’re suggesting is something you always suggest to everyone.
  • React to Objective Behaviors Instead of Labeling People
    Don’t assume that some parties are “difficult people” or that people with mental health conditions are more likely to have disruptive behaviors or difficulty in the process.  Instead of labeling people, develop consistent practices for responding to observed behaviors.
  • Respect Mental Health Choices and Perspectives
    Different people have different beliefs about the causes, labels, and treatments for their mental health problems if they see instability as a problem at all.  Be sure to respect different views and lifestyles equally, even if someone is addressing their mental health in ways you disagree with.
  • Be Trauma-Informed
    Recognize that anyone may have experienced trauma in their lives, and that this conflict or mediation process could be a source of trauma as well.  Strive to make everyone comfortable, be flexible in adjusting to their needs, and be transparent in how you practice so there are no surprises.  Set up expectations at the beginning of the mediation to set a safe space and a place where they can ask for what they need and that it is ok to do so.
  • Build Trust
    Consider a pre-mediation call with all parties to build trust with them, and give them a chance to share how they feel about participating in the process including their concerns regarding how they communicate, how the other parties communicate, and their own self-efficacy.  Offer everyone the chance to bring a support person if they think it would be helpful.  Consider sharing something vulnerable about yourself to facilitate trust.
  • Askari, M. (2011). Effects of communication and conflict resolution skills training on marital satisfaction and mental health among Iranian couples.
  • Askari, M., Noah, S. M., Hassan, S. A., & Baba, M. (2013). Comparison of the effects of communication and conflict resolution skills training on mental health. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 5(1), 91. 
  • Fahimi, N., & Tarkhan, M. (2016). The relationship between conflict resolution strategies and adolescent mental health among female high school students. Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Studies, 4(6), 209-217.
  • Malizia, D. A., & Jameson, J. K. (2018). Hidden in plain view: The impact of mediation on the mediator and implications for conflict resolution education. Conflict resolution quarterly, 35(3), 301-318. 
  • Sheykh, S. F. M., & Emadian, S. O. (2020). Investigating the Relationship between the Conflict Resolution Skills among Couples on the Level of Marital Conflict and Their Mental Health (Case Study: Centers of Psychological and Counseling Services of Qaemshahr City). Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Research, 8(1), 38-44. 
  • The impact of mediation on the psychological well-being of children & parents.  Allton, Lisa; Oliver, Chris; Griffin, Christine. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology.  Jan/Feb99, Vol. 9 Issue 1.
  • Suitability of Divorcing Couples for Mediation: A Suggested Typology. Cohen, Orna; Luxenburg, Aharon; Dattner, Naomi; Matz, David E. American Journal of Family Therapy.  Oct-Dec99, Vol. 27 Issue 4.
  • https://www.divorcemag.com/articles/4-therapy-tools-to-bring-to-the-divorce-mediation-table
author

Clare Fowler

Clare Fowler is Executive Vice-President and Managing Editor at Mediate.com.  Clare received her Master's of Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University School of Law and her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, focused on reducing workplace conflicts, from Pepperdine University School of Education. Clare also coordinated… MORE

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