People often just think mediation but there actually are different types of mediation styles. The three basic types of mediation are facilitative, tranformative, and evaluative. In jest a colleague recently suggested a fourth type – accusatory! I will discuss a potential fourth type, group mediation, in a future blog. All types of mediation require the mediator to be neutral, the process to be confidential, and self determination for the parties. The role of the mediator is different in each type.
Facilitative mediation is based on the belief that, with neutral assistance, people can work through and resolve their own conflicts. In a facilitative mediation, the mediator will take an active role in controlling the “process.” Process means things like setting the ground rules for how the problem will be solved. The mediator asks questions to identify the interests of the parties and the real issues in the disagreement. The mediator helps the parties explore solutions that benefit both parties (sometimes called “win/win” solutions). In a facilitative mediation, the mediator does not offer an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ cases. The mediator does not suggest solutions.
Evaluative mediation is based on the belief that mediators with expertise in the issues in conflict can help the parties to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their legal or other positions and to work to achieve settlements. In evaluative mediation, the mediator controls the process and suggests solutions for resolving the conflict. The focus of an evaluative mediation is primarily upon settlement. The mediators will make their best efforts to get the parties to compromise, if necessary, to achieve a result. This is the type of mediation most attorneys and former judges use. It is like a court required status conference or a meeting with a special master. I believe this is what Ken Feinberg does. It often becomes what is called power or muscle mediation and a settlement is imposed.
Transformative mediation is based on the belief that conflict tends to make parties feel weak and self-absorbed. Transformatative mediators try to change the nature of the parties’ conflict interaction by helping them appreciate each others viewpoints and strengthening their ability to handle conflict in a productive manner. The mediator will intervene in the conversation between the parties in order to call attention to moments of recognition and empowerment. Ground rules for the mediation are set only if the parties set them. The mediator does not direct the parties to topics or issues. Instead, the mediator follows the parties’ conversation and assist them to talk about what they think is important. The transformative mediator does not offer an opinion on the strengths or weaknesses of the parties’ cases. The mediator does not suggest solutions.”
Some mediators prefer to use one approach exclusively in their mediation sessions. Many mediators can, and do, use many approaches. I often start with facilitative but slip into evaluative when I hit an impasse. I probably am always doing a little transformative mediation. Clients don’t usually do it but it is a good idea to ask your mediator which style he or she uses.
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