Earlier this year, Melissa Sulkowski, R.N., M.A., L.P.C., of Erie, Pennsylvania, appeared on the Women Really Mean Business Podcast. Melissa is a Collaborative Coach, what we in Florida call a “Collaborative Facilitator.” She helps families who are going through the Collaborative Divorce Process remain focused on what is most important to them rather than the arguments of the past. She helps clients work on the emotional aspects of divorce and get through the tough moments so they can move on with their lives. Melissa also helps families develop parenting plans that are tailored to their children’s needs and developmental stages.
Additionally, Melissa is trained as a mediator and works with families in various forms of alternative dispute resolution. Her goal, regardless of which process is utilized, is to help families amicably reach agreements and stay outside of the adversarial court system.
You can find the audio of Melissa’s appearance on Women Really Mean Business at the following link: https://womenreallymeanbusiness.com/2019/09/melissa-sulkowski-women-really-mean-business-048-dont-let-a-crisis-force-you-into-self-care
Below is a partial transcript, edited for clarity:
How Melissa Got Started
[At approximately 5:10]
I had our court system approach me to see if I can help families resolve and mediate conflicts. Judges wanted me to assist the court system and help families avoid returning to court…This whole conflict resolution arm grew into my vision of Nurtinise, where I have professionals doing traditional therapy, I have a massage therapist, and I do conflict work.
Here’s how I explain my conflict work: My specialty and advanced training is as a family mediator. I am also trained as a Collaborative Practitioner, which is a really different approach. Both are “Alternative Dispute Resolution” processes. These ADR process help families going through transition, whether because of separation and divorce, because of issues related to elderly parents, whether dealing with conflicts related to small family businesses…Really, this has helped broadened the scope of what I do.
At the end of the day, most of my focus has been on family Mediation and Collaborative Practice.
Mediation & Collaborative Practice
Collaborative Practice was established in 1990 by a gentleman named Stu Webb, with whom I recently had the honor of doing a webinar…Collaborative Practice is essentially a process where families or couples agree to resolve their dispute without going to court.
Mediation is similar, in terms of being a private, voluntary process, though it is less comprehensive. Having done court work for a number of years, I saw some of the destruction that was happening to families and how relationships were being torn apart. In Collaborative Practice and Mediation, on the other hand, I saw relationships being preserved and healed. This is why Collaborative Practice and Mediation is a much better fit for me and my values.
Essentially, in Collaborative Practice, you have round table discussions that help support the emotional process of where people are at. You typically have a financial professional involved who is a trained CPA who can help demystify some of the financial aspects of divorce. Typically, each spouse has their own separate collaboratively-trained attorney who is sitting around the round table…It really is an interdisciplinary team of professionals helping a family in all of the aspects that impact them when they are going through conflict and transition and redefining their family.
This is how I spend most of my days, doing this type of work. All of my advanced training is on communication and emotional dynamics, as well as conflict resolution skills. I have also had the pleasure of going out and train in several different communities. I teach other Collaborative Professionals how to do this work.
I want to help other divorce professionals bring more peace and healing to families as opposed to making things worse when they are already in pain.
Helping Families on a Practical Level
[At approximately 19:15]
The work I do with families is on a practical level with Collaborative Practice and Mediation. I use an approach which does not encourage families to go into a courtroom and advocate a position and battle. I try to meet people where they are at, empathizing with where they are at, and help them grow by empowering them. I help them manage what they have the ability to manage. I also help divorcing families learn to communicate and depersonalize some of the differences. I teach them to learn how to get their needs met and cope so they can move on with their lives.
I am fortunate to work alongside Melissa on the Board of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Further, I have had the opportunity to co-train with her around the U.S. and teach professionals how to grow their mediation and collaborative practices. Further, Melissa is a contributing author for a book I edited for the American Bar Association on Building A Successful Collaborative Family Law Practice.