My mediation practice grew out of many years of experience with the “reality” of the litigation process, which is often time-consuming, costly, and not always the most effective means for people to work through disputes and move forward in their lives. My training and experience in transpersonal psychology and various modalities for psychospiritual healing taught me not just the value of peaceful resolutions but more importantly the ability to listen honestly and compassionately to people as they share the background of the issues bringing them into dispute. I then enter into dialogue with all parties involved, usually in separate rooms after an initial joint meeting, and allow practical solutions to emerge. My many years of experience as an attorney allows me to assist people in framing both the heart of the problem and articulating and exchanging possibilities for resolution. I tell people honestly at the beginning of any mediation that the vast majority of cases I mediate resolve with settlement, but rarely is either party completely happy with the terms of resolution, though they can move on and focus on other important aspects of their personal and professional lives. Almost always in my experience resolution provides relief and restoration of energy that may be directed into living productively and creatively.
I understand the litigation process through the court systems as a ritual, but a ritual based in maintaining conflict and turning over power for resolution to another party, whether judge, jury, or other authority. Sometimes this is the appropriate mechanism for resolution of disputes, particularly when there is a legal issue needing decision to provide guidance to a community, state or the nation. Yet most disputes do not fall into this category but rather involve particular problems – often very complicated problems – that have become intractable for one or more people. Mediation in my experience is another form of ritual than the court system, one that provides more control to the parties involved. Mediation allows more flexible resolutions to emerge organically from authentic communication, whether the parties are communicating directly with one another in the same room with my assistance (often the case in divorce or family law mediation) or individually with me as I walk back and forth between rooms and seek the most effective ways of communicating the differing positions, beliefs, feelings, needs, hopes, hurts and possibilities in any dispute. Frankly, in many if not most disputes, money is the form of exchange through which some or all of the resolution occurs, a reality about which I am completely honest – and yet typically much more is at stake for each individual than money, and finding and honoring the “much more” sometimes assists moving toward a resolution that allows people to move through a difficult situation.
My mediation practice developed in Montana, where I work primarily in the context of workers’ compensation disputes. I conduct workers’ compensation mediations usually, but not always, with an initial joint introduction, and then work separately with the parties to understand the factual context, the experience of the injured worker, the viewpoint of the insurer. Typically the attorneys involved provide documents and information to me regarding the background of the issues in dispute. At mediation, we discuss privately the possibilities and probabilities of “what happens next” if settlement is not achieved, often the commencement of a court process or continuation of an insurance adjustment relationship that has become mired in conflict. Sometimes, even in situations not yet involving conflict, mediation becomes the means for injured workers to resume control of their vocational, medical, and personal lives without involvement of an insurance company and for the insurer or employer to “close their file” on a difficult case.
Mediations in family law (divorce and parenting plans) may be handled either with the parties working together in the same room with my assistance or with me working with them individually and exchanging information, proposals and possibilities. I have training and experience involving the complicated and often highly charged nature of separating from a life partner, particularly when children are involved – a situation well known to give rise to possibilities for acting out emotions through the practical issues that arise in trying to separate financially and in planning for the future. Family law mediation is not therapy but I ask people to be honest with me and themselves about the sources of their positions and interactions as solutions are sought. In the New York/New Jersey area, I have established a working partnership with therapists experienced in working with families for joint mediation, which can be particularly effective for mediating jointly with couples. In family law matters, mediation typically occurs over a series of weeks or even months to permit stage-by-stage working through of the complicated practical, financial, and emotional issues that are typically involved. I am not admitted to practice law in the New York/New Jersey area, but work with local attorneys or couples representing themselves to develop the legal documents necessary to finalize divorce and family plans.
Given my interest in honoring the natural world, I am drawn to mediating environmental disputes – ranging from complex litigation to local community issues involving resources, development and nature. As with all mediations, my intention involves creating the space for the real people involved – sometimes particular individuals and sometimes people speaking for constituencies – to be heard on their interests, which may be legal, economic, moral or personal, and typically some combination of all these things and more. In my own personal perspective, I balance a deep awareness of the precarious situation facing the environment – often in my experience bringing forth grief or anger for some people – with the practicalities of civilization in a complex economy providing the infrastructure for human life.