Throughout the evolutionary cycle of a couple or a family, it inevitably goes through multiple phases or situations in which, due to various factors (previous family particularities, situations that have arisen or simply the management of daily life in which it is is necessary to make important decisions), its members must face or adapt to these new realities that they must live. Optimal management of these situations promotes family growthBut at other times, the crises generated can provoke difficulties and conflicts of all kinds.
For these problems, the interventions that have been shown to be the most appropriate and effective are family therapy and family mediation, Depending on the needs, shorter and more specific interventions or longer and longer in time.
Family therapy and mediation: differences and similarities for choosing the right one
Although these two ways of working with families have their own goals and ways of doing things, the distinction between them is often blurred. In order to clarify the fields of action of the two approaches, we will speak, although in a very generic way (with the risk of simplification that this implies) of their main characteristics and differences, which can help to determine what would be the alternative of the most appropriate intervention according to each family and its needs.
The fundamental goals of family therapy are the assessment, support, guidance and psychological treatment of any clinical problem or symptom presented by the family as a whole. Although there is a specific symptom or request that is, of course, addressed, the psychotherapeutic intervention is considered more broadly, covering the dynamics and relational patterns of its members, in relation to the problem and, generally, in connection with the history and biography of its members.
The temporal focus on psychotherapy is placed in the present, but in relation to the past: stories and past experiences are explored, understanding that the past is fundamental to understanding what is happening to them in the present moment. In this sense, it is about understanding and resolving underlying or non-obvious conflicts at a glance through one’s own family dynamic.
The general objective of psychotherapy is therefore to accompany and promote more profound and structural changes which allow the family to acquire greater resources for adaptation both in times of crisis caused by the passage from one stage to the next. the other of the family cycle deal with and resolve underlying psychological or emotional conflicts. For these reasons, the duration is usually much longer than mediation, as it can be reduced to a few sessions.
Unlike psychotherapy, family mediation does not focus on psychological treatment, but on the management and resolution of specific and well-defined conflicts (for example, in cases of divorce, custody and custody of children). In the event that larger scale issues are detected, mediation would not be the appropriate approach, unless the intervention is very limited to a specific goal and always in addition to therapy as a general framework. .
The temporal focus on family mediation is placed in the present and, above all, in the future: attention is focused, preferably, on manifest conflicts and on concrete and practical aspects such as, for example, decision-making regarding custody or visitation arrangements.
Mediation is therefore a process of cooperative dispute resolution, in which the parties involved are encouraged to communicate appropriately and to reach the agreements they deem most appropriate based on their mutual needs.
Neutral attitude as a professional requirement
The family therapist, as mediator, adopts a neutral attitude towards family members, Although it is generally more managerial in the sense that it evaluates, guides, advises, offers indications, proposes actions, etc., always with the aim of promoting or changing dysfunctional dynamics and deeper relational orientations and general.
The family mediator, on the other hand, plays a less managerial and facilitating role in communication (through the use of micro-communication techniques), which helps participants to reflect on their conflicts and disagreements, to encourage the creative search for ‘possible alternatives, allowing decisions to be made and mutual agreements to be reached which they deem most appropriate according to their needs and interests.
Decisions people can make freely and voluntarily are made in a context of security and confidentialityFree from any form of coercion or reciprocal pressure and without the meter directing them in any way: it is the interested parties themselves who must reach, if they see fit, the agreements they judge. The mediator neither values nor offers solutions to his problems.
Although one of the fundamental goals of family mediation is for people to come to agreements that resolve their conflicts, in many cases the most important thing is not so much the agreement itself, but to generate space. different and healthier relationship., As well as offering resources for the management of their conflicts, having a clear preventive component.
When conflicts can have legal consequences (As, for example, in divorce cases, with the consequent dissolution of the for-profit corporation, or disagreements regarding the custody and custody of minor children), mediation becomes the most practical method to resolve these issues.
In accordance with Law 5/2012 of 6 July on mediation in civil and commercial matters, it is possible, through mediation, to conclude agreements which, in compliance with the regulations in force, may subsequently be transformed into a legal act. to give it a legal character. For this, it is always practical that the parts are at any time, regardless of the advice of their respective lawyersBefore arriving at the formalization of the agreement which will eventually have legal effects.
A combination that works
As we can see, depending on the needs, one or the other approach will be the most appropriate, although, of course, it can also be complementary to offer comprehensive care to families and couples. To do this, professionals must be trained in both disciplines.
Diego Albarracín Garrido: Psychologist, family therapist, couple therapist and mediator of psychologists from Prat.