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Copyright (c) 1997 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers 
Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

ARTICLE: Therapeutic Mediation:
A Saner Way of Disputing


14 J. Am. Acad. Matrimonial Law. 233


by Beth M. Erickson **


Recent evidence shows that the same dysfunction that generates a couple's inability to communicate is the primary reason that mediation fails. These very processes that damaged the marriage are precisely the points at which the mediation gets stuck. It is believed that "most forms of divorce mediation have their roots in the therapeutic tradition." 1 However, therapeutic mediation finds both that mediation failures can be traced to relationship dysfunction and can be prevented by well-placed attention to these stalemates. In this way, therapeutic mediators attempt to ensure that the relational impasses that generated the marital rupture do not jeopardize the mediation and carry over to become impasses of divorce.

In fact, the findings of Joan Kelly, longtime leading researcher in the area of divorce and its sequallae, point to the need for mediations in general to include attention to relational, as well as legal, issues. She writes, "there are some indications that mediations that incorporate more hours and sessions, with trained and experienced mediators, and focus as well on communication and relational issues, are more successful in achieving settlement and behavioral change." 2

And because the behavior of most couples beginning divorce mediation reflects their behavior during the marriage, couples naturally come to mediation with these dysfunctional communication patterns in place. Yet, if these communication patterns were ineffective during the marriage, they become increasingly more ineffective during the course of divorce, in light of the additional layers of defenses that the marital rupture ...
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