Going by the number of times I have been asked recently about a particular upcoming mediation training, I am prompted to share some information with regard to what constitutes a ‘good mediation training’. There is also some wisdom gained over the years, and several anecdotes, relating to mediation training workshops. These I shall keep aside for sharing some other time.
To get an initial understanding of what should be one’s expectations from an entry-level workshop in mediation, what is generally known as a Basic Mediator’s Training Workshop, it would be of immediate help to refer to the 15 Training Outcomes stipulated by the Family Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution. They are what a participant should have achieved for themselves at the end of the training workshop. These ‘Outcomes’ are:
- Ability to explain what mediation is (within the dispute resolution context) and what a mediator does;
- Awareness of theories and current research and literature underlying conflict and its resolution, and their application to family mediation;
- Ability to contract for mediation services;
- Ability to screen for appropriateness of mediation, including knowledge and ability to screen for domestic violence and an awareness of appropriate responses when domestic violence or its potential has been identified;
- Ability to assist the parties in surfacing and framing the topics to be discussed in mediation;
- Awareness of the consequences of separation/divorce for adults and children;
- Ability to work with the substantive information encountered in separation/divorce mediation;
- Ability to build a working relationship and a constructive process with the parties;
- Ability to facilitate communication between the parties by using specific skills (e.g., active listening, reframing);
- Ability to facilitate problem solving between the parties, especially in the areas of divorce including, but not limited to, parenting, support, division of assets/liabilities, insurance, tax filing, etc.;
- Knowledge of conflict management skills;
- Understanding concepts of mediator influence and neutrality;
- Knowledge of standards of practice and how ethical issues are resolved;
- Ability to recognize when the assistance of other professionals might be helpful to the mediation process and to facilitate this discussion with the parties; and
- Awareness of what additional knowledge/skills/experience/supervision may be necessary for the successful practice of mediation and how to get it.
It be noted that these outcomes are mostly general in nature and, with some modifications to points 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10, are to be expected of any given mediation training.
Having gone through this somewhat elaborate list of outcomes that any good mediation training need deliver, I would say that essentially a robust training should give the trainee a level of confidence which would see him or her being comfortable in the mediator’s chair. It is something akin to buoyancy, when thrown in deep waters. Certainly, what is ultimately required, and therefore expected, is ‘swimming’. However, at a bare minimum, it is essential that the trained mediator be able to at least ‘stay afloat’ and hold her/his fort. Then they may develop their own style of swimming through the process, to the shores of a consensual outcome, be it even one of ‘agreeing to disagree’.