Everyone experiences conflict on a daily basis. While conflict is often perceived as a challenge, it can also be a great opportunity for change, learning, and growth. Learning how to properly cope and deal with conflicts is an important life skill. Here at Grafton, we are committed to teaching our clients the skills necessary to resolve conflicts, and allowing them opportunities on a daily basis to practice and reinforce those skills.
Conflict is defined as a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, external demands or internal demands. For the purpose of supporting our clients at Grafton, we have expanded the definition of conflict to include any situation in which the client may perceive that he or she is being threatened, bullied, insulted, or abused by another person. At Grafton, we always operate under the assumption that our clients have experienced some form of trauma because at the very least they have been separated from their loved ones. For such individuals who have been traumatized, any threat to their physical or emotional being can then be a trigger for “fight”, “flight”, or “freeze.” Thus, we use trauma-informed care to help our clients perceive conflicts in a productive way and develop the basic skills to solve and resolve daily conflicts with other clients, parents, and staff.
Our experiences at Grafton have proven to us that all clients, regardless of their level of functioning or diagnosis, when systematically taught and supported, can build the skills necessary to resolve conflicts productively. We have designed a single system at Grafton that is used consistently to build these skills. The system empowers the clients to be a part of the solution through a structured mediation. First and foremost, Grafton ensures that the mediation takes place in a safe and comfortable space so that clients can practice and develop the necessary communication skills without feeling like they will be judged or punished. The mediation is led by a trained mediator and interested clients are also trained to be co-mediators. During the mediation, clients practice being active listeners, a skill that has the amazing result of helping the clients understand the impact of their own behaviors on others and to be able to empathize with other’s viewpoints. We also help clients develop the skills to effectively communicate their own fears, frustration and views on conflicts with other staff, students, or a particular treatment. At the beginning of the structured mediation, clients are taught and encouraged to complete a short meditation which will help them become more calm through slower vocalizations and more relaxed physical mannerisms.
Mark, a client served at Grafton, recently shared his views on the conflict resolution protocol: “I believe mediation has helped me with seeing other people’s point of view. Also it is working well in the unit with the peers and helping them turn their attitude around”.