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Susan K. Boardman, Ph.D.

Helping you transform the way you communicate so you can  resolve conflicts before they lead to separation or family discord.

Couples Mediation

is an alternative to couples therapy, which may require extensive time to develop therapeutic insights, and is designed to develop concrete solutions in a shorter period of time. As a mediator experienced in psychology and communication, I help couples (and other adult family members), to resolve conflicts that could lead to separation and/or family discord if left unattended.

Examples of conflict:

Different Financial Views

Parenting Responsibilities

Allocation of Household Tasks

Intimacy Issues

Communication Stalemates

Career Conflicts

Living Arrangment Conflict

Family/Friend Relationship Conflicts

Why Couples Mediation?

People face issues in their relationships that prove difficult to resolve without outside assistance.  Many couples handle conflict by ignoring it, yelling, or some combination of the two. Rarely do they sit down and directly negotiate with each other about what is frustrating in the other person’s behavior and what behaviors could be substituted to ease the friction.  More often couples learn through osmosis the behavioral “rules” of their relationship.

What Does Couple's Mediation Involve?

Couples Mediation is a series of guided negotiations, with the help of a neutral third-party mediator, in which family members are helped to craft concrete, practical solutions to issues troubling their relationship. They create explicit guidelines on which they agree to resolve conflict, and taught communication skills that help support the guidelines, thereby improving their ability to negotiate constructively in the future.

This process results in a written agreement (although not legally binding, is psychologically very powerful) of the behavioral changes each person will make to smooth conflict going forward.

Why Mediation Instead of Counseling or Therapy?

While both processes are used to improve relationships, therapy tends to focus on identifying underlying psychological issues and patterns, frequently looking at past behavior, whereas mediation focuses on creating concrete solutions to immediate conflicts, focusing more on the future.

What Are the Benefits of Couple's Mediation?

Couples Mediation is a more concrete, focused process than many forms of therapy. With the help of the neutral third-part mediator, the couple/family members are given space to express frustrations and concerns but this occurs in a controlled manner. The focus is on identifying areas of friction and directly neogtiating with each other possible solutions to the conflict. The mediator does not impose ideas, but helps the couple to come up with their own solutions. The focus is on the present and future of the relationship.

Another benefit of this process is teaching communication skills. Partners and other family members learn how to listen to each other and express themselves more constructively. The process helps to break destructive cycles of conflict and communication, protects children from the stress of family discord, and prevents separations that may not be necessary.

How Long Does the Process Take?

Couples Mediation is designed to be a relatively short-term intervention. The mediation is sceduled for 2 hour time blocks usually two weeks apart, to give time between formal sessions for discussions and excercies by the participants. The process is very client-driven both with respect to timing and topics, however depending on the complexity of conflict issues, people typically come to some agreement after an average of  5-6 sessions.

Are There Circumstances Under Which Couple's Mediation May Not Be Appropriate?

I frequently work with couples who are at the fork in the road between separation and working on the marriage. The process is more efficient if there is still some level of intact communication, and both parties are willing to try to work on the relationship for a period of time.

The process is not useful in situations where there is either psychological/physical abuse, substance abuse, or a psychological disorder that may impair cognitive function and rational decision-making.

About Susan K. Boardman

Susan received her Ph.D. in social psychology from Columbia University. As a mediator, she specializes in how group dynamics, personality, and gender differences affect family communication and conflict resolution. Formerly an Instructor at the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, for five years she served as a mediator for court appointed custody and visitation cases for Community Mediation Services in New York City.

Susan is co-editor of The Journal of Social Issues volume “Constructive Conflict Management: An Answer to Critical Social Problems” and author of  “Marital Mediation: A Psychological Perspective” in the Conflict Resolution Quarterly.  Another publication, “Personality and Conflict”, appeared in The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, and  “Peacemaking in Marriage” appears in The International Encyclopedia of Peace.

More recently she wrote an online article entitled “Marital Mediation: Where Are We Going?” for Mediate.com, and is the Founder of the first Special Interest Group on Couples Mediation for the Academy of Professonal Family Mediators.

Testimonials

“We both found your mediation sessions extremely helpful. Learning about communication styles and the things that escalate discussions into arguments was very helpful, but what was invaluable was your listening to us and then helping us see how it played out with our issues.”

“You brought great energy, insight and warmth to the sessions and we really feel we came far in three sessions. We can’t thank you enough for your insights, thoughtfulness, and deep understanding of communication.

 

My family found our series of mediations to be incredibly helpful, transforming the way we communicate and make decisions. You asked all the right questions and helped us focus on practical solutions and pushed us to deal with our most challenging problems head on.

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