There are principally three types or “styles” of mediation and it is important when retaining a mediator to know which style of mediation he or she practices because one style may be better suited to a given fact pattern then another style. The three styles of mediation are known as: (1) facilitative; (2) evaluative; and, (3) transformative.
With regard to “facilitative” mediation, it is the kind of mediation most people think about when they think about mediation. In facilitative mediation, a neutral third party, the “mediator,” asks questions of the parties, sometimes in joint sessions and sometimes in individual sessions, to try and draw out the parties’ underlying concerns and issues. The mediator will ask the parties to consider other perspectives by re-framing issues and asking whether different takes on a given issue could be considered reasonable under the circumstances.
The mediator assists the parties in trying to come up with options that are acceptable to all parties and which resolve the dispute. In this kind of mediation, the mediator does not assess the relative value of each party’s position or provide opinions about potential outcomes if the matter is litigated. In effect, the mediator is a “negotiation facilitator” and any resolution is the product of the parties’ efforts only. This style of mediation is used in both legal and non-legal disputes.
As to “evaluative mediation,” the mediator in this kind of mediation acts more like a judge in that he hears all sides of a given dispute, assesses their relative merits and demerits, and provides an opinion to each party as to the likely outcome of a given case. Since a mediator who is an “evaluative” mediator is giving his assessment of the legal outcome of a dispute, he or she is often an experienced attorney or retired judge. This kind of mediation is especially good where the disputes are largely legal ones and there are disputes about the meaning of the law and how it will be applied to the facts of a given case.
The above two styles of mediation are considered “traditional” types of mediation. In my practice, I provide a blended version of the above two styles.
Finally, a relatively new kind of mediation is now being used more and more. This kind of mediation is known as “transformative mediation.” In transformative mediation, the mediator focuses on the people involved in the dispute as much or more than on the dispute itself. In more traditional mediation, mediators try to “separate the people from the problem” so that the problem can be addressed without the baggage of personality disputes.
In transformative mediation, the mediator operates from the assumption that, in effect, “the people are the problem” and the dispute is merely a symptom of the problem. In transformative mediation, only “joint sessions” are employed meaning that the mediator works with all parties simultaneously. The mediator’s goal in this kind of mediation is to create “empowerment” of the disputing parties, in part by getting each party to the dispute to recognize why the other side holds the views he/she holds. (This does not mean, however, getting the other party to concede the merits of such a position.) By each side gaining recognition from the other, a certain “empowerment” occurs and the parties are more willing to work together to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Without empowerment, people in disputes tend to feel weak and thus “self-absorbed” because they are trying to be protective of themselves.
I do not practice transformative mediation although there are certain concepts within the approach that I embrace.
Please feel free to email me or call to discuss this information and whether I can be of service to you in assisting you resolve a dispute in which you are involved.