Courtney Ligon is a Social Worker and Tennessee State Supreme Court Rule 31 Listed Family and Civil Mediator. Her past experience includes working as the Child Advocacy Manager with CASA of Nashville and with the Texas Department of Child Protective Services. She earned her BS in Social Work from Texas Christian University and her M.Ed. in Nonprofit Leadership from Belmont University.
Name: Courtney Ligon
Company: The Nashville Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC), Director of Programs
Industry: Social Work and Mediation
Who are you, where are you from, what do you do? How do you serve your community?
I would describe myself as a mother, wife, friend, and my profession is that of a helper. As a child, I was the one the smaller children would seek out to defend them against a bully. I was never shy about taking up for the underdog or speaking out in favor of an unpopular idea or theory if I felt it was “right.” My passion for helping others led me to a career in social work and advocacy. That passion has continued as I have worked for last 13 years in the family law system where I now spend my days as the Director of Programs with NCRC, primarily serving the low-income population of Nashville, Tennessee by mediating their custody disputes. While at NCRC, I have worked daily with the most vulnerable populations in my city in order to help them find a sense of calm during their most chaotic life events.
What inspired you to a position of service? What was your path there?
After years of working in the social work field and surviving an excruciating personal divorce, I was ready for a career change. The interesting part of the change has been transitioning from working directly with children in the legal system as an advocate to now working with their parents to overcome their personal conflict. Since entering into mediating as a profession, much of my perspective has changed when it comes to my role as a helper. I am no longer an advocate of what is “right,” but instead I spend my days striving to resolve complicated disputes between warring parents where there often is no “right” answer.
To be effective in her role: “I spend time in each mediation truly listening to clients’ needs, fears and hopes with an extreme level of compassion, empathy and understanding.”
Often, I recall what it was like for me to sit in a seat at a mediation table during my divorce, and I see the same fear, hurt and anger I experienced years ago in the words of my clients. In those sessions, I know this field is my calling.
What about serving others brings you the most joy? What’s the most challenging part of serving others?
By far the greatest part of serving as a mediator is experiencing genuine breakthroughs with clients. Some of my most fulfilling moments come when I am able to connect with a client on such a profoundly intimate level that they are able to feel truly heard and thus able to become open to constructive dialogue with the person across the table from them. It is common to have clients unable to look at one another at the beginning of the session only for them to be laughing and sharing old stories of their history together by the end of our time together. While not every mediation ends in success, even those cases can be beneficial for the clients if they are able to leave the session feeling heard.
What obstacles have you faced, internal or societal, in your pursuit of service?
It is known among social workers that only those who have faced true struggle in life would choose such a profession. We know what it means to help because we have been in the shoes of those we serve in one capacity or another. There is no doubt that my past has led to my profession.
What about burnout? “Some days can feel overwhelming and there is certainly such a thing as compassion fatigue. I would have to be honest that some days I wonder why I continue serving, but by the following day I meet someone that truly needs help, and I am revived again.”
What advice would you give SHEs considering a career path that involves serving others?
Becoming a social worker and then mediator was not a decision made in haste. I would tell someone considering this field to be sure that they can support themselves financially. I am fortunate enough to work for a nonprofit that is grant funded, however this is not the case for most mediators. I would also advise anyone interested in the field to spend time talking with other mediators in their city/town and to become educated on state guidelines as they pertain to the profession. Mediating is an exciting and rewarding profession and is highly competitive. Being well educated about the profession is imperative to increase one’s marketability and overall success.
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