What is Mediation?
Mediation is a powerful and cost-effective way for people to reach resolution without destroying relationships and without the intervention of the court. It offers an opportunity for people to learn from the past in order to prevent problems in the future. In mediation, the parties are active participants in the decisions required to resolve the conflict. The mediator is a neutral facilitator who works to assist parties in their decision-making. Mediation is a confidential and voluntary process.
What Does the Mediator Do?
The mediator wears many hats during the process. As a “communication consultant”, the mediator helps the parties talk to one another in a productive way, through individual coaching, demonstrating and teaching active listening skills, and enforcing communication ground rules. As a “facilitator” and “note-taker”, the mediator sets the agenda, tracks issues to be discussed, and records agreements reached. As “referral source”, the mediator identifies areas where input from outside sources is needed and helps clients to locate factual information or personal support from such experts as lawyers, tax consultants, counselors, self-help groups and resources, appraisers, or any other source of helpful information.
“Linda was awesome! She was super patient and kept very neutral the whole time…[She] facilitated through some rough times. When I was way too emotional at times, she stopped and made sure I was ready, and when I wasn’t, she moved on to areas I could deal with until I was in a better state of mind. It made me feel very comfortable knowing that she saw I was distraught and was not going to let anyone take advantage of the situation.” — R.E.
What Does Mediation Look Like?
Individual mediations differ according the mediator’s style, the type of conflict and the number of parties. But some basic principles are found in all mediations. First, each party will be given the opportunity to share their point of view and feelings about an issue, often in the presence of the other parties. Second, the mediator helps each party to identify their particular priorities, values and goals around the issue. Third, the parties brainstorm options for resolving the issue, bearing in mind the information shared in the first two steps. Finally, the parties select a solution for the issue, which is reduced to writing. The process is repeated for multiple issues.
What Does This Mean For Me?
The basic principle of mediation is to enable clients to make their own informed decisions. While the mediator is in charge of the process, the parties are in charge of the content and the outcome. The mediator helps the parties to be sure that they have all the information necessary to make a decision, and then helps them craft a solution unique to their situation. Experience and studies have consistently shown that agreements reached through mediation last longer and lay a foundation for healing for all parties involved. When there is an ongoing relationship between the parties, the re-establishment of a working relationship may be even more important than the particular agreement reached.
“I learned quite a bit and I feel I am walking away with some better life skills. I felt there was a lot of success at the end of the sessions…watching you work in those moments where I felt ‘I’m losing it here’ was beneficial to me.” — C.M.
How Does Mediation Differ From Other Services?
Mediation is not a substitute for legal services, although it usually significantly reduces the legal costs of a conflict. While the formal mediated agreement may be the basis for ending any legal action, parties still need to consult with their individual attorneys about any legal implications of their discussion. Mediation is not a substitute for therapy, although the parties are often greatly helped by their involvement in therapy or counseling prior to, during and after mediation. Mediation looks at the past in the context of forming solutions for the future rather than unraveling reasons for past behavior. Mediation is not a process in which problems are turned over to a decision-making authority; rather it keeps the decision-making power with the parties.
How Can I Find a Qualified Mediator?
With the exception of those mediators employed by public agencies (i.e. the court or a neighborhood center funded by the state), the State of Oregon does not license or regulate mediation services. A person looking for the right mediator must be sure to ask questions in order to determine the mediator’s qualifications. A mediator should be trained specifically in mediation; a forty-hour basic training should be considered a minimum requirement. A mediator should have experience, both with conducting the process and with case development, which includes assessing the case and client’s appropriateness for mediation. A mediator should be affiliated with an organization that provides, if not requires, continuing education in mediation and subscription to a code of ethical conduct. The Oregon Mediation Association (503-872-9775) is a statewide example of such an organization. For family mediation, the Association for Conflict Resolution‘s Family Section is a national example.