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Marriage Counseling Vs. Dispute Resolution

By on Mar 1, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

When couples get to a sticking point in their relationships, many assume that the next step should be marriage or couples counseling. But many couples are surprised to find that counseling may not actually be the fastest and most effective way to overcome a conflict and repair their relationship. Read Brian’s story.   Counseling is a long-term, ongoing strategy designed to examine personal issues that may contribute to unhappy relationships. A counselor is trained to dig into the past, pinpointing and analyzing past events to try to determine their impact on current behavior.   In contrast, dispute resolution is focused on resolving a present issue in order to create a harmonious relationship for the future. The couples I see in my dispute resolution practice are here because they just need to tackle a big relationship stumbling block and get it resolved, once and for all.     Many need help clarifying their concerns so that they can get to the heart of the conflict. Most need help learning how to effectively communicate with each other. Some seem to have reached an impasse because they have completely different goals, and they don’t know how to move forward together.   These couples need help, and they need it fast. They don’t want or need to go through the deep dive into their psyches that’s involved in ongoing counseling. They just want to resolve a dispute, put it behind them, and move forward with a clean slate.   Dispute resolution can help couples achieve that goal in just a few sessions, and at the same time, equip them with tools and techniques they can use to prevent and resolve future conflicts. As a trained relationship mediator, I facilitate two-way communication that helps couples quickly identify their deepest motivations, understand the other person’s point of view, and work together to come to an agreement that’s mutually satisfactory.   The dispute resolution process is an excellent first step in quickly resolving the conflict that’s holding you back. So if you’re ready to repair your relationship, read about the four stages to resolving disputes, or contact me to schedule an appointment.  ...

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Taking on the Elephant in the Room

By on Feb 13, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Once the holiday decorations are packed away, the New Year has been toasted, the kids are back in school, and life has settled back into the same old routine, many couples find themselves right back where they were before, rehashing the same old problems. Some have been doing it so long, it has simply become part of the fabric of their lives, always there in the background, lurking like the proverbial elephant in the room.     These couples often go through the motions of life, day after day, pretending like everything is normal, ignoring the tension they feel simmering just below the surface. On days dedicated to celebrating relationships – anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day – they might bury the hurt deep inside, dress for a dinner out, and put a happy face on for the world to see. All the while, they both know that the longer they ignore the conflict, the closer the strain will push their relationship to the breaking point.     Too many couples live their lives pretending that everything is fine when it isn’t, and accepting that this is just the way things are going to be. They have reached a sticking point in a relationship that has come to feel like a house of cards, and they can’t seem to move past it without knocking the entire thing down.     But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a proven process for working through and resolving even the most intractable relationship problems, and you and your partner owe it to yourselves to try it.     Dispute resolution is a tried-and-true, objective method for pinpointing each person’s deepest feelings and motives, understanding where the other person is coming from, and working together to agree on a path that leads you both safely past the sticking point.     Because it takes emotion off the table, it allows both parties to express how they really feel, without fear of reprisal. And because the process teaches people how to actively listen and negotiate fairly, it gives couples the tools they need to head off any future conflicts before they can become relationship-killers.     Don’t spend another day dancing around the...

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The Best New Year’s Resolution of All

By on Jan 16, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

‘Tis the season when many people are thrilled to close the door on one year and open their hearts and minds to the possibilities of 365 new days. This is the time when people resolve to lose weight, get healthy, eat better, save money, travel, volunteer, or cut down their stress level.   Resolutions like these are a fine way to start the New Year, but if you’ve got a conflict in your life with someone you care about, you won’t be fully happy no matter how many pounds you lose, trips you take, or dollars you save. That’s especially true if the conflict has driven your marriage to the breaking point.   If you want to resolve the endless arguments with your spouse, step-children, siblings, or other important people in your life, but you don’t know where to begin, you’re not alone. Many people assume that their conflicts are unresolvable – something that they just have to live with, always there in the background, creating toxic stress in their lives.   But the truth is, no conflict is “unresolvable.” There is always a way to find a middle ground, where both parties can agree to move ahead peacefully. It might not be easy, and it might take a lot of focus, cooperation, and discussion. But once the conflict is resolved and that weight is lifted, it’s much easier for everything else you wish for to fall into place.   So make a resolution now to make this the year that you put that conflict to rest, once and for all. There are several good resources available that can teach you some techniques to help you work through conflict on your own. One great place to start is by reading People Skills by Richard Bolton, which includes chapters on How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others and Resolve Conflicts.   Some people prefer a more hands-on approach to gaining the tools and skills they need to prevent and resolve conflict. Shortly, I’ll be hosting a workshop to help couples learn more about the sources of conflict, how different communication styles can lead to an impasse, and how active listening and other techniques can help people pinpoint their deepest motivations,...

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Wishing for a Silent Night?

By on Dec 23, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

‘Tis the season when families come together to celebrate the holidays. It’s a time of joy and giving – but for many people, all that family togetherness means it’s also a time when tensions bubble up to the surface. Nothing brings out the stress like packing up a carload of gifts and kids and hitting the road for that annual holiday trip to see the family. Unless it’s hosting a houseful of guests, trying to find that perfect gift for the spouse who already has everything, or sitting around the yuletide fire trying to keep Grandpa from tipping over as he polishes off his fifth spiked eggnog. Thank goodness the New Year is right around the corner, and you can get to work on your resolutions. If one of them is to resolve the long-simmering conflicts in your family, my holiday gift to you is this tip: It all starts with being a good listener. Good listeners are active listeners. They respond by restating what the person just said, without judgment. They paraphrase what was just said, so the other person knows they are really paying attention. They let the person know that they understand how they are feeling, and how strongly they feel about it. They ask questions to clarify what the other person is saying. They pause the conversation every now and then to summarize and review what has been said so far. These active listening techniques show that you care about how the other person is feeling, and that you are interested in resolving the conflict. And the best part is, active listening tends to be contagious, so it’s very likely the other person will begin to do the same for you when it’s your turn to explain your feelings. Active listening is one small part of a multistep process that I teach people as I help them through conflict resolution. If you’d like to start 2016 off right by learning more about how you and your loved ones can work together to resolve your conflicts, I invite you to attend one of my upcoming workshops. Through education and role play, you’ll gain the tools and skills you need to put your conflict to rest, once...

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Introduction to Mediation

By on Jan 11, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Often times when I share with someone what I do, they respond with telling a mediation experience that usually makes me cringe. The story goes like this… My ex and I were ordered to go through mediation when we were splitting up to decide who was getting what and how much time we would have with our kids. We were put in two separate rooms and the mediator would go back and forth from my room to the other. Then my attorney would tell me if this was a good deal or not. I agreed to it, but it really wasn’t what I wanted. It didn’t seem fair but it felt like I had no choice in the matter. This is a common form and outcome of mediation when people are getting divorced. My personal experience was a similar one. But to me, this is not mediation and therefore it is not the style of mediation I practice. There is a component in this style that is missing which is very, very important for both parties to feel the mediation was a success, which I will reveal in just a bit. While I am able to mediate divorcing couples or any dispute, I steer away from mediations where the participants are forced into mediation and those that are divorcing. For one, when someone is forced into mediation by the court it mostly is viewed as a step that is necessary to take before I can get “my day in court,” which results in the participants going through the motions and usually ends with neither party satisfied with the outcome. Secondly, because of my personal experience with ordered mediation, my heart wants to use my skills and style of mediation with couples or people in conflict who want to preserve and save the relationship. I work with couples who want to stop the endless cycle of arguing, save their marriage, keep their family together and learn new communication skills they can use in the future. So what is this very, very important component my clients have in relationship mediation? Self-determination. It is a process in which you choose how you come to an agreement over the issues that are stealing...

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Marriage Counseling Vs. Dispute Resolution

When couples get to a sticking point in their relationships, many assume that the next step should be marriage or couples counseling. But many couples are surprised to find that counseling may not actually be the fastest and most effective way to overcome a conflict and repair their relationship.

Read Brian’s story.


Counseling is a long-term, ongoing strategy designed to examine personal issues that may contribute to unhappy relationships. A counselor is trained to dig into the past, pinpointing and…

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Saving a Marriage

For one blended family, mediation created harmony where once there was anger and hurt. After counseling failed, the newlywed parents came to Sharon Dolak. Together, they learned how to communicate and quickly disign a solution that created a peaceful home for both parents and stepchildren.

Here’s his story ►