A Q&A Session with the Spotlight Community Member of the Month!
Mandell Gisnet Center’s Spotlight Community Member for the month of November is Ryan Hoffmann, Case Manager at the Veteran’s Transition Center (VTC) located at Martinez Hall in Marina, CA. At VTC Ryon provides week to week case management services, teaches life skills workshops, finds substance abuse counseling and, in most cases, helps establish temporary living quarters to assist during the veteran’s journey towards establishing employment and permanent housing. Ryon and his colleagues at VTC provide services for up to 56 veterans in the Monterey County area at any given time.
Ryon recently attended our 32-our Core Mediation Training in October and had some insight on how mediation works for him and the specific tools he uses in his work at VTC.
Q1: What were your original thoughts about mediation and taking our mediation course?
A1: “Marlene Baker, who works in Admin at VTC, suggested that this course might be good for helping [veterans expunge their records], but I saw a broader scope for that: We deal with a lot of issues with Vets. Vets come in, and they are strained from relationships. You know, 50% of combat vets come home and within six months are divorced. 90% are divorced overall. A lot of that results in broken families, outstanding child support, reunification problems and I saw this [training as a way] to better communicate.”
Q2: How has your view changed?
A2: “Well, we are dealing with 56 Veterans and we have 3-4 bedroom houses. We have 20 of those [houses]. Each veteran gets their own room but still, with that, personalities conflict- quite often, especially with the PTSD, the Combat-Vet versus the Non-Combat-Vet. We find ourselves constantly having to mediate disagreements, arguments, and conflict”… “Like tomorrow, we have a house meeting, and we have to sit the Vets down and explain ‘These are the complaints and these are the complaints. How are we going to work this out?’ So we are really facilitating a conversation between four people. This training enable me to be able to address that and deal with the conflict resolution part as well as the mediation [part].”
Q: After taking the Mediation course have you found your approach to the house meetings has changed?
A: “For the people that did it [32 hour core mediation training], absolutely. It really gives us a foundation to which to approach the situation- the crosstalk, the ability to say [to a veteran in the house meeting] ‘Hey, please just address your conversation to me.’ I never would have done that before. I would have gotten upset with the cross talk but I wouldn’t have known how to handle it.”
Q: So it sounds like the mediation course taught you the basics of how to facilitate a conversation with your clients at the VTC?
A: “Yes, exactly, you know reflecting [what the veteran just said] is a great idea but you don’t know until someone says, ‘You should use reflection’. It doesn’t key in your mind to use that tool. Normally, a person starts shouting ‘stop, stop, stop’ or keeps talking over the other person thinking you are getting your point across. Without actually going through the 32-hour Core mediation [training] you don’t realize that these specific tools [reflecting what a veteran says] are for these specific instances.”
Q: How has the mediation course enabled you to trouble shoot Veteran’s issues more effectively?
A: “Before, it was always positions, it wasn’t the interests [of the veterans]. That was a revelation here for me. I had always been coming from a person’s position and that what I was trying to mediate without ever getting to the interests of each party. It probably would have been a lot more easy to remedy [an issue] if know [their interest.” … “This class was really important to engineer that sort of thinking. To reflect back to a Veteran what they are going through, what they are feeling, and try to look for the solution to address whatever the issue is really important.”
Q: By using your skills taught in mediation how have the veterans responded?
A: “They want to be heard. The veterans are used to being told ‘No’. They are used to being ignore, they are used to being sent away with a bag full of pills saying ‘everything will be okay’. They are frustrated. A lot of times they just don’t know what to do.” … “ When they come to us with issues, it is important and reflection is so important [to let them know they are heard]. I would even say reframing is important because they go on a tangent about one of their housemates and we can reframe it back to them and say, “Well, maybe this is what you’re really saying”. It’s not so much they [the other veteran in the dispute] is a ‘negative connotation’, its just that you are seeing it this way and we need to get to the bottom of it.”
A big thank you to Ryon Hoffmann for being our Spotlight Community Member of the Month and an even bigger thanks to all the veterans who have served our country!
To find out more information on mediation training or how the services at MGC may help you, please contact Christina at 831-582-5234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org