Marital mediation or marital counseling

Many people ask the question, “How is a marital mediation different from a marital counseling?” and  “Can a marital mediator help us if we were unable to be helped by marital therapy?”  Yes, there is a distinct difference between marital counseling (or marriage therapy) and marital mediation.

Marital counseling is performed by a range of professionals, mostly with training and background in mental health areas, such as social work and psychology.   Marital counseling generally incorporates diagnosis, therapy and treatment of personality and relationship problems.  The types of information gathered and used by a marital counselor might include family history, and personal and sexual history.  Marital counselors are able to identify neurotic behavior and symptoms of mental disorder and illness, and can use that data in the counseling.   A marital counselor will aim to use analytic skills to provide context for parties and help them understand their behaviors, thereby alleviating marital conflict.

The approach of marital mediation is different. Mediation is dispute resolution.  Marriages are filled with disputes, big and small.  When a couple has an unproductive manner of arguing and settling differences, the marriage suffers.  If this problem is intractable and pervasive, the marriage can fail.

The  marital mediator works with a couple to help them resolve ongoing specific disputes and negative recurring interactions.  The emphasis is on analyzing the communication of the couple and training them to have more productive styles of negotiation.   A marital mediator uses standard mediation techniques to break through communication impasses.

In addition, the marital mediator can work with specific financial issues in a very direct way, such as business issues, and  financial planning issues that need to be resolved.  This is because most marital mediators are divorce mediators, who are experienced in financial issues.  Also, with the divorce mediator background, the marital mediator can give a disputing couple an education on what divorce (under the facts of their relationship) would look like.  A third benefit is that a marital mediator (who is a divorce mediator) can do a type of reverse engineering, and quickly identify patterns that, if not corrected, will lead to divorce.

Marital mediation is goal and task oriented, time limited and practical.   Often marital mediation is conducted at the same time a couple goes to couples counseling.  These approaches can work very well together.  Marital mediation is also helpful if one or the other of a couple is resistant to seeing a therapist.   Some couples prefer to work with marriage counselors;   some prefer to work with marital mediators; and some with both.

Sometimes marital mediation is successful for couples who have “failed”  marriage counseling.  (The opposite is also true at times.)  The important point is that there are resources available for people that wish to pursue and improve their marriages that can be very effective for people.

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