Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a number of answers to commonly asked questions in regard to counseling, mediation and training as well as what else we do here at Innovative Alternatives. Please consult the FAQ below.
We never judge our clients’ situation or decide who is right or wrong. It does not matter what happened in the past except as a road map to the issues that need resolution—what matters is what our clients wish to do in the present to resolve the current conflict and what they wish to do differently in the future to prevent it from happening again. Again, those who masquerade as mediators but are really arbitrating, will give opinions on who is most at fault and what offer a client should make to the other party or be willing to accept from them. That is not mediation! Don’t accept it as mediation and don’t waste your money for dissatisfaction.
IAI mediators will only invite the parties to the dispute to the mediation session. At other mediation firms attorneys are accustomed to coming to mediations and performing as active participants. Often the mediators are also attorneys and defer to them for the negotiations rather than the parties in the dispute. At IAI, you pay only the mediators rather than mediators and attorneys for the same time. At IAI, you create your agreement and you are satisfied with it or you agree not to agree—it is that simple. If your attorneys negotiate your agreement for you, how can you feel ownership of its terms? At IAI, the dynamic of mediation is not changed because the parties constantly look at their attorneys for approval before answering a question—openness and honesty is a key to mediation working. The parties deal only with each other. Your attorney is your advocate. This is his or her role. You can call them at any time on break for advice; you can wait to sign the agreement until they look it over for you, but why pay them to sit there and do nothing during a mediation session or to take over for you and change the dynamic to an arbitration session where you feel someone else is making decisions for you? If you want arbitration, have your attorney hire an arbitrator, but if you want mediation– Save time, money and frustration! Mediate with IAI! We know what mediation really is and we protect the process!
What do we need from you as a client? Simple ‘good faith’—which means that you come to sessions ready to present all the issues for which you want resolution and will remain open to hearing and considering all those presented by the other party or parties as well as the solutions you both or all bring. If we have this from all parties involved, there is no conflict that cannot be resolved with mediation!
First we have a screening/preparation session with the mediators to explain the process so you as a client can decide if this is a process you wish to use. We find out about your conflict and the people who are involved to determine whether it is a good case for mediation. If we all agree it is, the first 2-hour mediation appointment will be scheduled.
Ground rules and roles of the mediators are shared with the client(s).
Each client has uninterrupted time to discuss what the problem is in their personal perception. Mediators summarize and identify issues to be mediated from the problems described.
Each client has uninterrupted time to describe the consequences or impact to themselves, relationships and their functioning as a result of this conflict. Mediators again summarize and continue to identify issues for resolution.
Mediators may categorize multiple issues for resolution within certain categories such as ‘communication’.
Each issue or category of issues is then ‘brainstormed for potential solutions.’
Each idea generated is evaluated to determine if it is something both or all parties wish to have on their agreement. Mediators look for agreements that are fair and balanced, concrete and specific, realistic and feasible.
Once the parties complete the written agreement to resolve the current conflict and ways to prevent further conflict, the parties sign the agreement and the mediation is over.
Mediation vs. Counseling
Counseling usually only involves family members, but mediation may be between 2 or more people in conflict, sometimes unrelated to each other as in victim/offender mediation.
Mediation is focused on specific topics; counseling may take many turns or tangents depending upon the style of the counselor and the number of client’s issues.
Clients in counseling may get into arguments while the counselor attempts to identify issues. Mediation does not require clients to agree, but to answer series of questions to identify what does and does not work in the relationship.
Mediators remain neutral, but counselors are not expected to remain neutral.
Progress is quick in mediation sessions, which are typically 3-4 hours in length. Counseling might takes weeks or months to get to the same level of progress that is achieved in 1 or 2 mediation sessions.
Mediation often costs more than counseling, because 2 mediators are used in co-mediation models. However, since more is accomplished in fewer weeks or months, total cost might be the same as counseling.
Licensed Psychotherapists are bound by both laws and ethics to protect your confidentiality. At IAI, counselors fight to preserve confidentiality to the extent that is allowed by law. The Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of the State of Texas secures confidentiality unless information discussed in the mediation sessions is discoverable outside those sessions.
There are exceptions to confidentiality. Judges often make psychotherapists testify and disclose their notes in civil litigations such as divorce and custody cases. Insurance companies have a right to your diagnosis and place this information on the Medical Information Bureau for other insurance companies to share.
Comparatively to psychotherapy, mediation is secure unless there are cases where client(s) threaten harm to self or others. Your information will also become public if you should ever choose to file a complaint or lawsuit against your provider because the law provides that they must be able to defend themselves with the details of the treatment they have provided in your case.
A bully repeatedly uses force, physical or non-physical, to shame, humiliate, and dominate a victim. As a result, the victim can become depressed, hopeless, and enraged. The bystander is the audience for the bully-victim drama. It should be noted that these are dialectically determined roles, not people, and can switch around often very rapidly. Like an audience for a play, the bully needs applause, since it increases the humiliation of the victim and makes the bully feel more powerful. In this way, the bystander enhances the bullying. The bystander role is an important and often unrecognized part of the problem and also the solution. The Bully-Bystander gets a vicarious thrill by watching the bullying. Research has shown that 10-20% of all children in grades 3 through 9 have admitted Bully-Bystander qualities. The less common Victim-Bystander is often an abused child, who is too frightened to resist the bullies’ demands for help. Avoidant bystanders are sometimes teachers who deny the existence of the problem, while ambivalent bystanders can be recruited to interrupt the power dynamic.
As children get older, the intensity of the power dynamics and the degree of humiliation, shame and rage become much greater as groups of children adopt the bully-victim-bystander roles. Competition for leadership of groups and later on as the child grows up and becomes sexually mature, gender and ethnic battles and games, all add fuel to this fire. Thus being humiliated in front of a girlfriend or being rejected by a boyfriend has very intense emotional implications, leading often to despair and humiliation and sometimes suicide, or revenge and retaliation and sometimes homicide.
Coercive power dynamics, or bullying tendencies, can be present in many different forms of mental illness, so bullying is not a diagnosis as such, anymore than a headache is, but instead is an expression of a dysfunctional mental state. There is no treatment for bullying, but if it continues into adult life, and the individual continues to humiliate and mock others, all sorts of interpersonal problems will result that might lead them into psychiatric care, or even prison.
Children who kill themselves or others often may have mental illness with a predisposition to loss of impulse control, but the straw that breaks the camel’s back frequently is to be the object of significant bullying and feeling of being excluded or rejected by the group to which the child by nature and right belongs. There is nothing more devastating to the human mind than being shamed and mocked by others in front of a peer group and there is no other assault that can produce homicidal or suicidal rage as easily as shaming and mockery, since being mocked is much more enraging than serious physical injury.
Children are not born to bully. Modern psychological theory suggests that human beings are not born with instincts, unlike animals, but loss of control over impulses comes mainly from responses learned during upbringing counterpoised with certain genetic pre-dispositions. Parents that express anger physically will likely produce children who tend to express anger physically. Children from homes where there is domestic violence tend to over or under-estimate violence, thus very much affecting their later relationships with others and their own children. Unfortunately, significant adults are often inadvertently a bad example to our children; we frequently ostracize those whose customs and patterns we do not like. This form of institutionalized bullying conveys the idea to children that it is alright to establish a hierarchy of “good people” and “less good outsiders” and to humiliate others. Yes, unfortunately, children learn to bully, but they can also unlearn bullying. It all depends on us, the significant adults.
About 1% of all bullies have a serious aggressive nature, in that they enjoy the pain of others. Such children tend to be rather unfeeling when they bully and are not anxious, nor is their self-esteem low. Such children often have serious problems with criminal behavior later, and can become quite abusive. Obviously, most bullies do not necessarily grow up to commit crimes or abuse other people, since we all have been bullies, victims, and bystanders!
Many parents teach their children to “not get involved”, to “stay out of it”, “to mind your own business.” When a child becomes an audience to bullying, a process of being part of the “Triangle of Power Dynamics” begins. Watching someone squeal in shame as a bully humiliates can create a thrill in the bystander, who becomes vicariously identified with the bully, i.e., a bully-bystander. Eventually, this child might identify with the bully and passively feel empowered by the negative actions of the bully, being ensnared into the pathological power play without even realizing it.
The bystander may also identify with the victim and become afraid of the bully or support the bully so they do not become a victim (victim-bystander). The practiced bully will always be on the look out for new targets, and the victim-bystander is an excellent recruit. Bystanders can also deny any bullying is going on and become avoidant-bystanders. Many adults fill this role. Bystanders may also be confused and not know what to do. This ambivalent-bystander is distracted because they are trying to figure out what part to play in the unfolding destructive power dynamic. This is the group of potential achievers who will not achieve potential because they are distracted by the ongoing power plays.
The first step is developing an awareness of the bully-victim-bystander power dynamic and how it is being played out. It does little good to label any one child as the one who needs help or discipline. Bullying is a complex social dynamic that requires a combination of large group interventions that target improving the school and home social climate by having a zero tolerance for the bully-victim-bystander behaviors. Interventions need to target the school climate because the problem is caused by children who are not mentally ill and provide ways to encourage positive alternatives to negative power struggles. Bullying needs to be exposed as destructive behavior rather than glorified, modeled, and ignored by adults. Just like tobacco or AIDS, bullying is a health and educational epidemic that threatens the minds and education of our children.
Children need to learn how to cope with bullies. Simply bullying back will not work. Parents often advise their children to fight back against the bully. Again, victims are often no match for the bullies. Productive responses to bullies are based on teaching children verbal and mental techniques that lead to assertive, not provocative responses to bullying. The child needs to learn how to use assertive stances, language, postures, and some verbal and physical escapes from bullying.
Primary schools – usually students in 4th grade and up are trained so they can take the skills and potentially use them for the remainder of their years in school.
It is appropriate to have a cross section of students from the school but those who can be relied upon to be responsible and committed are essential. Generally, children that natural leaders (in either positive or negative roles) make good mediators and whom other children would naturally go to when they need someone to talk to about a problem are ideal candidates. Students who are previously leaders in only negative roles because they do not have the academic or athletic ability to lead in these areas, often reverse their behavior when given a positive role in which to demonstrate their leadership abilities. Any student qualified by the school’s ‘no pass, no play’ policies may be selected for the training.
Success in all areas of life is dependent upon our ability to get along with others socially—in school, work and family. Peer Mediation & Conflict Resolution training prepares students for life.
Students learn accountability, responsibility and natural consequences for their own behavior by listening to the impact they have had on another person and finding their own agreements to make things right with that person.
Mediation provides a means of resolving problems and can prevent escalation.
Conflict is accepted as a normal healthy part of relationships when it can be managed constructively.
Mediation encourages students to take responsibility for their behavior and their relationships.
Mediators improve their skills in the areas of affirming, listening, communication, negotiating and problem solving.
Student self-esteem is enhanced and school performance often improves.
Schools with a peer mediation scheme report that they have become more peaceful. Students know that they have a dispute resolution system that is confidential and non-confrontational and truancy levels are usually reduced.
Teacher time and stress is reduced as some of the need for disciplining, arbitrating and coercing is lessened. They have more time and energy to devote to other issues.
Students who have a sense of their ability to manage relationship difficulties also have a heightened ability to manage their learning.
Young people trained in mediation will go on to use their mediation skills outside school, for example when there is conflict within their own family or when their family is in conflict with their neighbors.
Relatively few schools have peer mediation. To set up a peer mediation program takes a good deal of time, effort and commitment on the part of the school administration, faculty and its students, and also the skills and resources of a recognized and approved mediation service provider such as Innovative Alternatives, Inc. to deliver the appropriate training. A whole school approach to peer mediation is essential. To sustain and support peer mediation and ensure its long term success, an implementation team should be selected to coordinate and supervise the project on a daily basis.
Where peer mediation schemes are up and running, it has been found that mediation is an effective tool for resolving disputes and keeping conflict to a minimum thus leading to less anxious students and improved learning in the classroom.
As a nonprofit, IAI has various grant programs that completely support, or greatly reduce fees for those persons who have no other resources. For trauma populations, IAI’s Victim Assistance Program provides 8 free individual sessions. We offer sliding scale fees to those who have no insurance resources and/or wish to protect their confidentiality by not using their insurance as this will require filing a diagnosis that will always be available on one’s medical record–particularly when one is in a profession that requires security clearance, law enforcement, nursing, etc. IAI accepts all major forms of insurance, in which case a client only pays their co-pay. If a client does not have insurance and makes too much money to qualify for sliding scale fees, the fee for a fully licensed therapist is $160, for a temporary licensed therapist is $135 and for interns is $85 per session.