Thursday, June 30, 2011

Emotion and the Dance of Connection

Recent research in Emotionally Focused Therapy: The best predictor of marital success is the female partner's faith in the male partner's caring. The best predictor of the female partner having an affair is her lack of faith in her partner's caring.
I recently attended a seminar on Emotionally Focused Therapy.  Michael Barnett was the speaker.  I was really impressed with his wisdom.  According to Michael:
1.  93% of communication is non-verbal and emotional.  So, what is emotion?  "Emotion is information, not something to purge, cathart, or work through. Research has shown that emotional information precedes linguistic information.  It is the fundamental meaning system that has neurological primacy. We feel before we think."  
2.  We can regulate intense distress through connection.  And, couples can regulate each others physiology and immune responses.  
3.  Adult attachment is reciprocal.  A partner makes "a bid" for connection.  The couples that accept each others bids make it.  The couples who turn away or reject each others bids fail.   
4.  When humans get angry they don't feel hurt, rejected, lonely, abandoned.  So, anger is often used to regulate these other, more painful, emotions.
5.  How would you define emotional maturity?  (Google it.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why do we marry?

Well, with all this talk of gay marriage/gay divorce I have been asked the question - from someone who chose not to marry - Why do we marry?  Here is my answer.

There are many, many reasons - financial, social, etc - some of which go back to the caveman (caveperson) days but still play out in our biology and brain chemistry. I believe that good marriages have a purpose. And, when that purpose is accomplished its important that a couple find/create another purpose or the marriage gets stale. (Stale to me means the bond/the connection rots out and dies.) Of course many marriages start out with the purpose of creating or raising a family. I was at a seminar recently and the presenter said "mammels soothe in pairs." That remark really made sense to me. Life is tough. In my mind, when a marriage provides a place to be soothed the marriage is a success. The human need for connection is met in marriage. HOWEVER, marriage is difficult and being married to the wrong person (who is unsafe versus soothing) is torture. Whats the difference? In the animal kingdom when an animal feels under threat it will fight, flight, freeze, or submit. If someone is engaging in those behaviors in their marriage its a red flag. When animals feel safe/soothed they play, eat, relax, mate. So why do we marry? To create an envirnment where we will be able to play, eat, relax, and mate. And, whats the payout - support, synergy (1+1>2), sex and soothing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Building My Practice

Dear Elinor,

As you know I am a PhD level therapist currently working for a non-profit. I'm Certified in Play Therapy. I want to leave the agency and start a private practice. I have several options for office space. I'd like to do some mediation and parent coordination also but I don't feel comfortable doing that alone. I'd much prefer to co-mediate or co-parenting coordinate. Is that possible? What do u suggest?


First and foremost focus on building the therapy practice. Get a niche and make yourself an expert in that niche. A hot issue - for years to come - will be families with autistic children. If you want to expand into PC, talk to Allyson Tomchin. She is a coach and a parenting co-ordinator. See if she will coach you in building a PC practice. Focus on the mediation practice last as it will be the most difficult to build. Sadly, lawyers will probably not choose you as a mediator. But, unrepresented parties will. If you want to build a mediation practice focused on unrepresented couples take my Friendly Divorce Training

When it comes to private practice the bottom line is marketing. Are you willing to go out there and sell? If not, keep your job. If you are, then do research and start building before you go. You may not be able to get on insurance panels and even if you can you will soon find that the managed care system is abusive to the therapist and the client.

Here are some questions to consider:

1. What are your greatest gifts (or greatest strengths)? What do you see as your greatest challenges in building and maintaining your private practice? How are the answers to these two questions related?
2. Beyond Therapy. Imagine that the words therapy, therapist, psychologist, psychology, counselor, and social worker do not exist. So when you are asked “what do you do?” what do you answer?
3. It’s your lucky day. I can lend you my magic wand. The wand will allow you to magically create a steady stream of perfect clients. With the wave of the wand, people in your target demographic audience will be incredibly receptive to your ideas and offers of help. But, there is a catch. You must be able to describe your perfect client with at least seven very specific characteristics. Only then will members of that group be located and brought to you. So give me seven real specifics of the people in your target demographic group. Be specific so that they stand out; otherwise you get burnt out talking to the wrong people.
4. Problem ID. Now that you know who is in your target market. Identify the top 10 problems people in your target market face daily or regularly.


Alimoney Question

Is it true that after 10 years a husband will have to pay more alimony?  Read my answer at

Association of Norh Central Florida Mediators

My friends Linda Chapman, Martha Johnston, and I are contemplating starting a monthly luncheon group - loosely modeled after the Association of South Florida Mediators and Arbitrators - for local mediators in and around Gainesville. We'd call it the Association of North Central Florida Mediators (or something like that). Our kick-off meeting is scheduled for Tuesday July 12 at noon at the Northwest Grille in Gainesville. Can you make it?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How I got here. Where I'm going. And more stories.

Twenty-two years ago, in 1989, I received a gift that changed my life. I was allowed to participate in a mediation training program that was offered by Leslie Ratliff, who was then the Director of Palm Beach County's Court Mediation Program. (Thank you Leslie.) At the time, I was in my mid 30s, a single parent who had recently returned to college to get a degree and figure out what my next (career) step should be. Except for me, all of the trainees were already doing some mediation as volunteers in the Palm Beach County small claims court program. All of the other 29 trainees were at least twenty years older then I was. Twenty eight of them were men - old white guys I like to call them - retired lawyers and businessmen - who needed something to do besides play golf. One was a woman - I'll call her Elaine. (She asked that I not include her real name here.)

Elaine has children who are about as old as I am and so we've always been at different phases of life. But, we live in the same city, share a strong commitment to the process and practice of mediation, and our paths have crossed many times. Clearly, we are members of each others professional circles. Elaine is old enough to be my mother but you would never know that by looking at her. And, I am not just talking about her physical features. She is the epitome of well-grooming; possessing the energy and style of a much younger woman.

Recently I sent out one of my "quarterly" newsletters. In the Random Thoughts section I wrote:

The reality of aging. Sadly, a Betty White old age may not be an option for most of us. What can we do now to better prepare for the future?

Here is what Elaine wrote me in response:

In a message dated 6/10/2011 3:41:39 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

Dear Elinor

Up until now I have not had any reason to respond to your informative Emails, but you hit me right where I should be, AGING. Believe it or not I am joining the Octogenarian membership and as you know, as active as I have been, I am truly in the Betty White category.

For your members and info, nothing gets you there except you. Doing what you can to help become you is totally up to the YOU.

For the past 20 plus years, I never cared how old I was or going to be. I just did what was necessary to be a successful part of society and added to my life work, in my case mediation, new and more educational programs. When one finds reasons to do whatever it takes to help others, truly their life has much more meaning. I feel I am rambling on but that comes with age and aging.

Until now, whenever someone questioned my age, I never let it out, I hear OH you look wonderful etc. But my purpose in writing this is to tell you, my friend how good I feel about what I have done and continue doing not how I look. Life has much to offer those who take advantage of it and I am there.

Keep in touch as I know you will.

Luv Elaine

Here is my response to her:

Yes, you are in the Betty White category. Well, you look better than she does. But, you have her energy and spirit. For the rest of us, a Betty White future is probably not in the cards. Look around at your friends. How many other women in your age range look/act like you? None. While your girlfriends were otherwise preoccupied (shopping?) you were the only woman in the old white guys mediator fraternity. So in more ways then one you are the exception to the rule.

Should we (the generation after yours) make believe we will all be 80 and running around like you? I dont know if this denial is a good thing. Would it be better, instead, to stop making believe, start planning, and face the fact that we will be decrepit for an extended period? Well, until I figure this out I am going to do what you said, shut-up and keep working.

Happy Trails, Love, Elinor

Friday, June 10, 2011

Intro Redux

I am a mediator and mediation trainer based in Florida. As part of Mediation Training Group I teach Florida Supreme Court Certified Civil and Family mediation training programs and Continuing Mediator Education. My own mediation practice is focused on ProSe/PreSuit divorce. (Cases where the divorcing couple goes through the process without retaining attorneys. They may consult with attorneys but they do not hire attorneys.) I am now teaching other mediators our unique marketing and practice methods. If you want to launch or expand your own divorce mediation practice within this emerging market niche take a look at  This training program is available in streaming video format at  Let me know if you have any questions. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Email Communique


Sometimes it seems to me that the world is changing so fast it's impossible to keep up with the pace. Ten years ago there was no social media. Today, technology allows each of us to create a global network. But, for those of us who are immigrants in the digital world, it's often a stretch to stay current. The following was my most recent attempt at staying connected with the 5000 people - most of them former mediation students - that are on my email list.

The Evolution of Divorce

I believe the family law arena is ripe for a revolution. Ten years from now lawyer-driven divorces will be the exception not the rule. Financial shifts and technological advances have sped up the evolutionary process. There is a need for professionals who are able to usher couples through the divorce process using a more humane approach. So, in addition to my work with Susan and Mediation Training Group, I have put together a new training program for professionals who want to launch their practices into the ProSe/PreSuit market and serve couples who want to divorce without retaining attorneys.

Friendly Divorce Mediation Training

If you (or someone you know) is ready to take your career in a different direction and interested in offering a unique service to families in transition then visit Friendly Divorce Training We are offering 16-hour training programs in

Boca Raton on July 8-10, 2011
Las Vegas on Sept 2-4, 2011 and,
Atlanta on Dec 2-4, 2011

This is a rare opportunity for professionals who want to launch ProSe/PreSuit divorce mediation practices. David and I will share everything we have learned about this emerging market and give you the foundation you need to build your own business. The program is approved for 15.50 hours of CLER by the Florida Bar and will also provide 16 hours of CME for Mediators.

Random Thoughts

I am interested in any feedback you have on this blog. And, I am especially curious about your thoughts on these three topics:

The reality of aging. Sadly, a Betty White old age may not be an option for most of us. What can we do now to better prepare for the future?

The state of the union. During one of my recent rants, a friend of mine - a historian - commented that "the more things change, the more they stay the same - after all, the early settlers were a mix of gluttonous pillagers and exploited religious extremists." What can each of us do today to be part of the force that moves the country in a better direction?

The immigration debate. No matter what your opinion on the immigration debate I think we can all agree that we need some form of immigration reform. I believe that the mediation process just might be a key component to finding a plan that works for all of us. What do you think?


Holy Moley. Its exactly one year - to the day, since I last blogged on this site. Life is hectic and moves fast. I know that a lot has changed since last year but I cannot list those changes off the top of my head - they just whirl by. Today David told me he's noticed that I spend a lot of time responding to emails. He is correct. And, with time moving so fast and so much to do it seems a waste to spend that kind of time without reaching the largest audience. So this blog is being reignited and will be used for recording writings that would otherwise be lost. Here goes. Find a conversation I had with a local lawyer about the differences between Collaborative Law and our Friendly Divorce process at