Why Mediation? Part 1 of 3

Even though many consider meditation a more relaxed and informal way of resolving a conflict that could otherwise be litigated, that notion is a little fuzzy. People who use mediation as a tool for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) find many advantages to those who “lawyer up” and battle their matters out in court.

One way that mediation is nearly always better than litigation is the cost incentive. In almost every case, it is simply less costly to pay for a mediated settlement than it is to pay for a litigated result.

Let’s take for example one set of “facts” and cost compare: A divorce of a couple who have been married for eighteen years, two minor children, the marital home, two vehicles, retirement accounts for husband and wife, a significant inheritance coming from the wife’s side, one boat, and a small plot of lakefront property out of state.

Presume that the parties are amenable to a fair and reasonable settlement in a timely fashion.

If the parties choose to litigate the matter, they are likely to spend between $15,000.00 and $20,000.00.  That figures two lawyers each working for between 30 and 40 hours on the matter. The lawyers’ billable time included the hours sitting in the hallway of the courthouse waiting for the case to be called.

If instead the parties choose to mediate the matter, they are likely to spend between $3,500.00 and $5,500.00. That figures co-mediators working between six and ten sessions and all costs to draft the requisite paperwork for court.

When it comes to cost, a mediated agreement is better than a litigated result–nearly 100% of the time.

We believe at Holistic Mediation that you should keep as much of your own money as possible–100% of the time.

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The Co-Mediation Model

In co-mediation sessions, our clients get a double benefit through their access to two different skill sets brought by Rob and Jenna.

As an attorney, Jenna addresses the legal, logistical, and analytical aspects of conflict; as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Rob hones in on the relational and trauma-based aspects of people in dispute.

Connection. Hands trying to fit two puzzle pieces together.

While Jenna is an attorney, and Rob a consulting psychotherapist, we do not represent mediation clients as an attorney, nor offer clinical explanations that underlie any disagreement. During the family mediation process, Jenna will share legal information but is precluded by ethical rules to give legal advice. Rob, through his years of experience working with conflict circumstances provides insightful direction in getting at the core of the areas of dispute.

This two-skill-set model offers to all clients a much richer experience in the crafting of legitimate and personally meaningful resolutions.

As the facilitators, Rob and Jenna promote discussion and negotiation that allows the conflicting participants the opportunity to exchange divergent views, ask questions, discuss difficult topics and find solutions. As co-mediators, they assume the role of neutral, third-party observers, assisting the participants to explore and find collaborated solutions. What generally results is the creation of a sound, mutually-acceptable agreement to address the parties’ particular circumstances.

If you are interested in the richer model that co-mediation can offer, contact Rob at 978.479.2923 or Jenna at 978.760.0482.

Tag-Team Mediation

Years ago when I first decided to become a mediator, I noticed that there were two types of professionals who attended mediation trainings: lawyers and mental health counselors. The ratio was a fairly consistent 3 to 1, respectively. While it seemed as though most of the lawyers in the room had backgrounds in social justice and family law, none of us was able to expertly hone in on the relational complexities that always come up in mediations.

Uninterested in getting an advanced degree in counseling in order to bring both sets of skills to my clients, I, instead found someone who already was a mental health professional to join me. I didn’t need to look far to find a willing and interested partner. In fact, I needed only to look across the dinner table at my spouse.

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(No that’s not our real dinner table.)

Rob Brownson, a licensed mental health counselor with two decades of experience working with individuals and couples in crisis, readily agreed to complete the same rigorous training as I had and for the two of us to begin co-mediating complex, family-related matters.

Rob and I both believe that the co-mediation model is special as it brings two distinct sets of professional skills into the room alongside two distinct sets of life experiences. Our clients have the added benefit of knowing that two critical thinkers are working for them to support them as they resolve their conflicts while ensuring a comprehensive and holistic approach to the collaborative process.

To book an initial, complementary consultation, call Jenna at 978.760.0482 or Rob at 978.479.2923



Taking That First Step

Many people who find themselves facing a choice between staying in a failed marriage and moving toward divorce feel paralyzed by taking that first step. That “first step” often takes the form of admitting the failure to their spouse after having lived with the internal feeling for some amount of time. Having that first discussion–or debate–over the conclusions drawn about the decline of the marriage can take years. The pressure people feel to stay together “for better or for worse” can lead otherwise rational and thoughtful people to remain in a relationship that no longer serves either participant.

It has been said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” The quote is attributed to Lao Tzu who actually said something about a “1,000 li journey.” A li is an ancient Chinese measurement equivalent to 360 miles. Through sloppy translation, we got “a journey of 1,000 miles,” even though a fair translation would be “a journey of 360,000 miles begins with a single step.” Not quite as catchy, and quite a bit longer a trip.

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While this quote was originally meant to convey the notion that great things start from humble beginnings, we at Holistic Mediation know that this axiom can also be applied to taking that first step toward a new chapter in one’s life. Although there is humility in the admission of failure, there is also the start of an unknown, albeit potentially great thing.

If you think that you’d like to move in a new direction, please call Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 or Rob Brownson, LMHC at 978.479.2923.

New Year. New You?

If you’re like most people, January 1st brings with it an obligation to both reflect on the last year and to make plans for the next.

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Sometimes the reflecting feels like a reward after a year’s worth of hard work; sometimes the reflecting results in an assessment of failure from having taken no action or the wrong action.  In looking forward to the new year, some outline a series of small, but attainable goals, while others make grand and sweeping statements about how their lives will be fundamentally and forever transformed.

If your reflections and planning have brought you to the point of believing that you could benefit from the professional help of trained mediators (one who is by education and experience a lawyer and the other a mental health counselor), please consider reaching out to Holistic Mediation.

We will gladly meet you for an initial, complimentary consultation to explore potential avenues for collaboration and perhaps the most meaningful resolution you haven’t yet made for 2019.


Jenna Brownson, Esq. can be reached at 978.760.0482

Rob Brownson, LMHC can be reached at 978.479.2923



We Trust You Both Know What is Best

Rob and I have found that for many couples, they put off coming into mediation because they are reluctant to admit publicly that their marriage is not longer good. We have heard “good” to to be further detailed with these descriptors: viable, worthwhile, rewarding, healthy, etc.

Coming to a point of being able to delineate what “exactly” brings a couple to mediation is unnecessary. In the same way that no one puts demands on you to specify why you wanted to get married, your mediators have no expectation that you describe that which has led to your choice to divorce.

Of course, there are times when the couple wants to discuss those details. As each mediation is “of the couple,” those who want to open a discussion around the why behind their choice to separate are free to do so. But rest assured, your mediators do not need to be convinced of the merits of the choice you have made to enter into mediation. As self-actualized people making a significant life change, we trust that by the time you arrive to us, you have (by and large) come to terms with the choice and now are seeking out professional assistance on formalizing your decision . . . unless you change your minds and thereby your choice, because that can happen, too.

We trust you.



The Nature of Truth

When people come to mediation, especially in the cases of divorce, I always keep in mind that both of them are telling “the truth.”

So why the quotation marks?

Well, my co-mediator and I approach working with our clients with the baseline belief that we are hearing “the truth,” insofar as attaining “the truth” is possible in the arena of personal and intimate relationships. So while we believe what we hear, we know that the “truths” of our clients come through the filters of their individual perceptions and biases. This is important in many ways.

First, everyone wants to be heard.

Second, everyone wants to be believed.

And third, everyone deserves respect.

Now this doesn’t mandate that the other person agree with those “truths,” nor does it require that we as mediators facilitate a conversation based on a particular “set of facts.” In fact, we regularly find ourselves validating both “truths” and reminding our clients that perceptions, being so individualized, will differ.

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In this famous drawing, two images are visible.

Which do you see?

A young woman wearing a choker and looking over her right shoulder or an older woman, with a large nose, in profile with her hair covered with a scarf?

We have shown this drawing to our clients as a reminder that our perceptions are our own, and it’s possible to see the same thing in two totally different ways.

That sort of broad permission to be oneself is just one of the aspects that Holistic Mediation brings to the mediation setting. We always endeavor to approach each client as a whole person. If you are considering mediation as a vehicle to resolve a controversy or to reframe your status in life, call us to schedule a free half hour consultation.





The Most Awful/Wonderful Time of the Year

There is something truly bittersweet about coming into the holiday season knowing that there are people contemplating divorce as they struggle to hold it together for their children.

While we understand there is no “good” time to divorce, we have been told by scores of clients that they waited until “after the holidays” to begin mediating their divorce.

The process of redefining one’s self, i.e., going from “spouse” to “ex,” can be bitter. Conversely, there is the balancing force of “sweet” illustrated in the respect that parents exercise in making this memorable time of year not hooked into a memory of “that’s when I heard my parents were getting divorced.”

Every year at this time, Holistic Mediation goes into a period of hibernation. We know why and we understand the motivations behind the lull.

Please know that when the new year is well underway, we will be here to help you find peace and resolution through the facilitation of meaningful and productive conversations.

So, until then . . . Happy (Bittersweet) Holidays.





A Multi-Linguistic Process

Over the years and through our work with many, many clients, we have come to understand that each couple (or family, or group) has its own language.

By the time Holistic Mediation has been hired to provide a structured environment for the resolutions of conflicts and the development of future goals, our clients have already shared a long history together. With that history, there comes patterns of language and behavior that are unique to those people.

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Just the other day, we met with some new clients who are considering moving forward with their divorce. Their history is long. In recognition of their decades together, we asked them to tell us about their “relationship’s language.”

Most of us never analyze the ways we speak to our intimate partners. Our language and techniques we employ have simply evolved over the course of entwined years. Like the nose on your face, you don’t think much about it, so much so that if asked to describe it–whether “it” is your nose or the ways in which you communicate with your long-term domestic partner–people sometimes need to put critical thought to the task.

Transformational mediation challenges the people look critically at their self-created conflict to devise a self-created solution. This is hard work as it requires a level of objectivity to something so very intimate and vulnerable and, by rights, personally subjective.

At Holistic Mediation, we have been included in the languages of scores of couples (and families and groups) and have an appreciation for this unique aspect of finding the “right” words for our clients who seek our services. This is just one way we endeavor to provide thoughtful and client-specific attention to those with whom we work.

If you are in need of personal and meaningful professional services to resolve your conflicts, please call us. We speak all sorts of languages, not the least of which is yours.

Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 or Rob Brownson, LMHC at 978.479.2923