Mediation and Managing Emotions


As part of Family Mediation Week 2024, FLiP’s Divorce Consultant and Individual & Relationship Therapist, Jo Harrison, discusses how best to manage your emotions when you are in mediation.

Going through mediation can stir up a lot of different feelings. Anxieties about the outcome; concern about what it’s going to be like being in a room together; worries about whether you will say what you mean to say or be able to hold yourself together because it feels upsetting. These are all entirely understandable feelings to have and our mediators are all trained to tune into these different emotions and to tailor the work they do with you in a way that is tailored to what you can manage between you.

Making practical decisions to support the emotional side

At FLiP we are always focused on sorting the legal and practical consequences of divorce and separation, and on helping our clients achieve positive outcomes that can help them move forward. We also know that in order to succeed at that, often we need to support our clients with all the difficult feelings that divorcing and separating can stir up.

For example, for some clients, it may feel too upsetting to be in the same room in a mediation setting, so shuttle mediation may be indicated. Or it may be that there is an agreement upfront to ensure that there are regular scheduled breaks and that anyone can take a time out if they need to. These are some of the practical things that can be helpful to think about to support the emotional side of things.

Thinking about the emotional side to support the practical side

We are also clear about making sure that the precious and expensive time you have in mediation is focused appropriately. For example, if there is a need actually to tend to some of the deeper feelings about the end of the relationship, and to support a separating couple and give them space to say what they need to say to each other, then we will recommend that they seek the help of one of our specialist couple therapists to have that space alongside or in preparation for mediation.

We may also recommend that people seek out their own individual support to help them as they engage with the mediation process and through our expert team of therapists we are able to refer them to appropriate support.

We don’t think that getting upset in front of each other in mediation is necessarily unhelpful. Sometimes being able to be sad about the situation in front of each other can support mourning. What we want to ensure though is that there is an appropriate forum for this and it may be that a therapeutic setting could give a better time and space for these feelings to come out.

Our key message and ethos is to make sure you are supported both practically and emotionally as you go through mediation as this will also support you with decision making and going forward. When it comes to parents who are separating we are focused on helping them find ways to build the practical arrangements they make with each other on strong emotional foundations and this comes from ensuring that the emotional side of things is properly tended to.

Our key pointers are:

  • Don’t worry about airing concerns about the feelings that mediation stirs up, as this will help us to help you.
  • Consider what support you have in place alongside the mediation. Friends and family are an important network but think too about the possibility of individual or relationship support (which can be helpful to help mourn a relationship that has ended) which can really help set the mediation on good foundations.
  • Try to set expectations about what you will do if you do get upset or angry in mediation. Will you agree to stop the process or to take time out? Think about what you will do if you don’t feel up to it. Will you be able to tell each other that?
  • And, to reiterate the first point, be open with us about your concerns. Our expert family mediation team is here to listen and find ways to support you.

Jo Harrison is very experienced in working as a therapist with individuals and couples who are separating. A former family lawyer, Jo has a depth of experience in being able to understand the legal process. She can work with clients, either individually or as a couple, to support them through the process. Clients can meet with Jo for an initial consultation either online or at our offices in Central London to think about what help is required. This can be at any stage before, during, or after a divorce or separation.

Find out more about how our in-house relationship therapists can support you during family mediation, by looking at our dedicated page linked below.


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