By ASHLEE AINGE
Since lawyers have the reputation of being pushy and counselors are often labeled as soft, people seeking active solutions to their problems may find the middle ground in mediation.
Bradley Meads is a lawyer and a mediator who runs Meads Mediation in Orem.
Meads, who has been practicing law since 1990, said he has seen a lot of people become dissatisfied with the justice system. He noticed that people get bitter when they realize that law isn’t always justice and they don’t receive what they really want.
Meads said mediation is a possible remedy for that.
“Mediation puts power back into the hands of the individual, rather than leaving the decision making and ultimate outcome up to the court,” Meads said.
Although Meads offers his services to people struggling from a wide range of conflicts, he most often works toward solutions for divorcing couples.
Their marriage might be ending, Meads explained, but a co-parenting relationship exists somewhere and must be recovered. When the spousal relationship falls apart, trust and respect often fall with it. Meads said they must be found again for any kind of a relationship to work.
“We focus on the kids, or the commonality. No matter what the conflict is, there is always common ground,” Meads said.
Meads said the way mediation searches for the common ground is something typical litigation misses out on completely.
Critics of mediation often ask about the training that mediators receive and how equipped they are to address relationship conflicts.
Meads, who was a FBI special agent, said serving on the chief decision council required him to do a lot of negotiating. Although he has been through mediation training, he said that experience is the most valuable tool that he brings to the table.
“The few [mediators] that I have known have been lawyers. It’s not necessarily that they are not trained, and it is not a matter of less training per se, they get training in basic communication skills. It is just a different aspect,” said Max Park, Family and Marriage Therapist at the Cascade Center for Family Growth.
The belief that people, especially males, shy away from counseling because it is touchy feely sounds right on target to Park.
“Based on the people I’ve seen, it is generally easier for the women to speak out about their feelings,” Park said.
Park said that he understands the touchy feely stereotype of counseling, but feels that the first step to effective communication is expressing feelings and emotions. People may not enjoy being so open about personal things, but Park said that people holding on to a tough guy image won’t find the solutions they are seeking.
Meads explained that mediation is not touchy feely, but that both partners are in control of every topic of discussion and of every agreement made.
“This is their process. I am not a therapist, I don’t work it out, they do. I just facilitate it,” Meads said.
Park agrees that in many cases mediation is the best road to take, usually when the couple has already decided to get divorced and just needs help with the splitting procedure.
“In cases where the decision has already been made, mediation is less expensive and less evasive than hiring separate lawyers. It keeps everybody on the same side,” Park said.
Park did believe that because mediators have different types of training than counselors or therapists, they may not have all the tools to effectively heal some of the deep seeded emotional or psychological problems seen in many conflicting couples.
Andrea Ballard, 21, a junior from Mesa, Ariz., majoring in chemistry, is engaged to be married May 25. She said mediation seems like a service that would be beneficial for everyone.
“Talking about concerns and keeping communication lines open will prepare you for any conflicts in the future, even if you don’t have them now,” Ballard said.
Ballard explained that the weekly appointments that she and her fianc? attend with her bishop serve as a type of mediation.
“He talks to us about marriage and about things we can expect to deal with in the future. We discuss our expectations and set goals for our relationship,” Ballard said.
Meads said these are the types of active problem solving and communication skills that can aide any couple in the difficulties of any relationship.
“People will do what they voluntarily decide to do more effectively than what they are told to do,” Meads said.
Meads urged that no matter what stage a couple may be in a relationship, mediation techniques would help.
“Pre-marriage or even pre-divorce is a great time to start working on conflicts. The longer a couple waits, the more pain there is to overcome. Just like in medicine, early diagnosis is critical for recovery,” Meads said.