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


Taking a Break

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One of the great perks of working through a conflict through mediation is the ability to take a break.

When the subject matter gets tough and the emotions run high, mediation allows for an intermission. Quite literally, we will in the middle (“inter”) of the process (“mission” = resolving the conflict) take a step away. Sometimes it is a five minute break during a session; other times it’s a few weeks away from the mediation room.

Unlike litigating a conflict, where there are court calendars to which the parties are beholden, mediation works on the schedule of the clients.

It is just one more way that mediation fits the client, not the mediators’ calendar.

If you have the goal of resolving your conflict, but don’t want to rush to a remedy, call us. We’re in no rush either.

Jenna 978.760.0482 or Rob 978.479.2923

Making Sausage

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That saying is used to depict an arduous process that is hard to watch. Oftentimes, we hear it said with respect to legislators trying to draft new laws.

It can also apply to mediation.

We have discovered that by the time most people are sitting with us in a mediation session, they are already very, very tired and supremely disheartened at what they have to accomplish to get from “Unhappy/Conflict-ridden Point A” to “Peaceful/Conflict-mitigated Point B.” You’ll notice that I did not refer to Point B as “conflict-free.” Whenever there is a disruption that results in the seeking out mediation services, we think it’s fair to conclude that the conflict will remain a “quiet reminder” for why the parties are with us.

This continued presence of “quiet conflict” has great power, as we encourage parties to allow space for it and to put it into its proper place in their lives. Once the conflict is so positioned, the parties have a chance to reframe their perspective of the other person.

This is when mediation becomes a transformative force. This is when people can see the other person as a “different sort of partner” in their likely-to-be-entangled futures.

Here’s an example:

Pat was a lousy spouse for a myriad of reasons. Chris was a lousy spouse for a whole host of reasons. Pat and Chris share children. Pat and Chris agree that continuing the marriage is a poor choice. Pat and Chris agree that their children’s needs and stability are paramount. Pat and Chris can unite under the mantle of the love of their children to work toward “seeing” each other–not as fomerly lousy spouses–but rather as the only other parent to the children.

“Seeing” is the first step to transforming not only Pat’s and Chris’s lives but also the key to doing well by their children.

If you are interested in trying to “see” your life and your future differently, contact us.

Our initial 1/2 hour consultation is complementary. And we promise not to make sausage during it.




Bittersweet Endings

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Every time we come toward the end of working with our clients, especially those who are going through the transformation from unhappily married to civilly divorce, I have such a bittersweet feeling. While I am honored to have been part of the couple’s important and future-defining conversations, a small part of me will miss the time spent with the sorts of people who find themselves in mediation.

What do I mean by that, “the sorts of people who find themselves in mediation?”

Rob and I have discovered, in the many years that we’ve been doing this work together, that no matter what caused the dam to break, the people sitting across from us in the mediation room want not only what’s best for themselves but also what’s best for everyone who will be affected by the significant choices they are making.

Our clients want to come to fair and equitable resolutions.

Our clients want to preserve and encourage family ties to extended relatives to continue.

Our clients want to co-parent successfully.

Suffice it to say: Holistic Mediation gets to facilitate conversations between hurting people who, almost always, bring their best selves to the process.

So it should be plain to see why it’s bittersweet to bring a mediation to a close.

If you or someone you know is amidst conflict and needs professional guidance to navigate through the resolution, please contact us at Holistic Mediation.

Jenna: 978.760.0482 or Rob: 978.479.2923


No Rubber Stamps

Recently in the midst of a mediation session, Rob and I were asked, “What normally happens in this case? You know, what does the judge say?”

Time and time again, couples who have decided to mediate (instead of litigate) their divorce want to know “what happens when . . . ” And time and time again, I say, “That’s the beauty of mediation. The two of you get to decide what happens when . . . ” While it is true that most family and probate courts judges could do a pretty decent job of setting down the terms and conditions of an asset division and parenting plan from simply looking at the couple “on paper,” mediation permits the divorcing parties to be the “experts” of their lives and to be the ones making the decisions.

As a lawyer, I could take a fair guess at “what happens when . . . ” knowing that there exists something of a “rubber stamp” if a judge asked to decide for the divorcing couple. In fact, when couples end up litigating their divorces, that happens a lot: the judge makes a decision for the couple.

Holistic Mediation isn’t in the business of making predictions, speculating on “what happens when . . . ,” or telling the couple what they should do. Why? Because the two people best suited to make choices about the terms and conditions of a separation agreement are those two people who it affects the most, i.e., the individuals who are divorcing.

In mediation, there are no rubber stamps. There is open dialogue and collaboration. Holistic Mediation honors that sort of decision making as it done by those best positioned to make those choices.


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If you or someone you know is considering divorce, please contact us to schedule a 1/2 hour free consultation to see if mediation would be right.

Jenna can be reached at 978.760.0482. Rob can be reached at 978.479.2923.


Why Co-Mediate?

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In co-mediation sessions, the 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.

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.

Predicting the Future

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Rob and I do not have a crystal ball in the middle of our mediation room. It is plain and simple: we cannot predict what will happen once our divorcing clients leave the room to head to court. We can make generalizations about how judges tend to come to their findings. These generalizations are informed by what has traditionally been the decisions made in run-of-the-mill cases.

Many people find themselves in mediation for one of two reasons.

  1. They don’t want to litigate; or
  2. They believe their circumstances warrant a not-so-run-of-the-mill approach

While we at Holistic Mediation will honor either of these objectives (or a blend of the two), we can’t assure you–with 100% confidence–that your agreement will be accepted by the judge. We can tell you that we’ve never heard of any “rejected” agreement. This gives us feedback that what we draft for couples is considered by the judge as “fair and reasonable given the circumstances.”

Let us caution anyone who is being told, “I can write your agreement in a way that will be accepted. Guaranteed.”

That sort of statement implies a knowledge of events which have not yet occurred. We believe making those sorts of “I’m 100% confident that the judge will sign off on this” is not only not responsible, it’s also not possible.

If you have come to a point in your search for a way to civilly come to an end of your marriage, we suggest trying mediation for all of its challenges and empowerment. The process is tried and true, unlike the guesswork of gazing into a sphere of glass.