I was teaching Advanced Parenting Mediation recently with Christine Kim. We had participants from all three disciplines (mental health, law and financial) and it was a skilled group of well-trained mediators.
As I was preparing to teach in the days leading up to the workshop and as I was coaching the role-plays during the workshop, it struck me just how hard mediation is. The mediator works hard . . . while at the same time trying not to work harder than the clients. There is a lot going on in a family mediation. The mediator has to maintain neutrality and compassion for both clients, holding each throughout the entire mediation process. The mediator has to understand and present some legal model information. The mediator needs to be knowledgeable about ages and stages, grief theory, impact of separation on children, impact of conflict on children, cultural issues, domestic violence and power imbalances. The mediator needs to be fully present paying attention to the verbal and non-verbal information in the room. The mediator has to be quick and respond to verbal attacks as they happen. The mediator has to have some framework for understanding conflict and a toolbox of skills and interventions to apply to the conflict at hand. The mediator must be able to actively listen for hours on end and be adept at mirroring and re-framing. The mediator has to be knowledgeable and creative in the option development phase. The mediator has to balance between process needs and yet still stay focused on achieving the task at hand. And finally the mediator has to have good instincts and be present enough to notice them. These are just a few of the things we covered in our one-day workshop!
No wonder I am often tired after a day of mediation. Satisfied . . . but tired.
Mediation is hard work. It’s fulfilling and meaningful work, but that never makes it easy.
A shout-out to all the family dispute resolution mediators who are doing their part to bring peace to the world one separating family at a time.