Facilitative Mediation Theory

Facilitative Mediation Theory in action as the mediator discusses shared interests with a man and a woman, neither of whom will look at the other.

Today, based on my discussion of frame of reference, I want to discuss Facilitative Mediation Theory so that clients can see that I have a particular theory that drives my work with the caveat that I use all theories like many mediation specialists. In subsequent posts, I will discuss each of the remaining three theories.

When I consider the four main theories of mediation (facilitative, evaluative, transformative, and narrative), I am drawn to the facilitative mediation theory. Facilitative mediation appeals to me because of its emphasis on process orientation, client centredness, communication, and client interests (Mayer, 2004). That is, I focus primarily on process assistance and see myself as an orchestrator who conducts the players but never gives them direct instruction on their own deliberations (Moore, 2014). I also believe that the clients need to be at the centre of the negotiation and my role is as the guide on the side (and not the sage on the stage) since I want the clients to do the heavy lifting for “understanding the issues, interests, options, and implications of their situation” (Mayer, 2004, p. 32) while I guide them through the process. Communication is key in any mediation and I believe that it is the most-critical aspect of the facilitative model as my ultimate goal is to assist the clients in finding a communication process so each understands the other’s concerns and both share the issues that they want to resolve. This aspect of the theory is why it pays off to discuss communication and behavioural protocols in the early stages of mediation (pre-mediation; first stage). The last aspect is client interests and it drives the mediation sessions since I want to assist the clients in understanding and naming their own needs and concerns more clearly and have each person understand the other’s so that we can all work to meet their needs or interests. Working on respective and shared interests at the forefront allows the clients to edge towards resolution and, as a great fan of Fisher and Ury’s early work, allows me to model their landmark works on interest-based mediation. I conclude with the point that I identify with facilitative mediation in principle but also because in my mediation and conflict resolution training and work over the last three years, it has been my go-to method and I believe, has been successful.

If I could choose the best elements of the four theories to develop my own theory, I would adopt an approach similar to insight mediation (Picard & Jull, 2012) in that my theory would combine aspects of the four major theories but would differ from insight mediation’s approach that examines “threats-to-cares that underlies the conflict” (p. 151) as that approach is very specific to a certain philosopher (i.e., Lonergan) and his Jesuit-based beliefs do no appeal to me. I believe that there are times when I will need to steer clients towards a source of information but, sometimes, I will provide advice based on my vast background in education or technology (i.e., evaluative; Ewert, Barnard, Laffier, & Maynard, 2019). I also see the merits in narrative mediation since learning about the clients’ conflict narratives “that form around ethnicity, gender, class, education, and financial wealth” (Winslade & Monk, 2000, p. xi) and acknowledging that “people feel hurt by the actions of another [so] they tend to rework aspects of the conflict story to reinforce their own sense of injustice, betrayal, victimization, or mistreatment” (p. 6) will assist the process of facilitation in mediation. I have been a hermeneutic phenomenological researcher so I understand that my clients’ “lived experiences” reflect their realities even if they are not always based on traditional facts so I approach mediation with that growth mindset. Lastly, transformative theory would also be integrated as part of my amalgamated theory since it “stresses mediation’s capacity for fostering empowerment and recognition, because when these occur in conflict, the quality of the interaction is transformed from destructive to constructive” (Bush & Folger, 2005, p. 21). In other words, if a client can get a better sense of their empowerment of self (i.e., self-respect; self-reliance; self-confidence) and come to recognition (i.e., acknowledgement and concern for the other person as a human being), communication, a major goal of facilitative mediation to which I have most-closely aligned myself, the mediation process will become even more effective. In sum, my combined theory, like all the theories, involves improving communication between clients but allows for borrowing the best from each of the four theories according to the situation in which I and my clients have found ourselves.

Further Reading:

Bush, R. A. B., & Folger, J. P. (2005). The promise of mediation: The transformative approach to conflict. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Wiley.

Bishop, P., Picard, C., Ramkay, R., & Sargent, N. (2015). The art and practice of mediation (2nd ed.). Toronto, ON: Emond Publishing.

Ewert, C., Barnard, G., Laffier, J., & Maynard, M. L. (2019). Choices in approaching conflict: Principles of dispute resolution (2nd ed.). Toronto, ON: Emond Publishing.

Mayer, B. (2004). Facilitative mediation. In J. Folberg, A. L. Milne, & P. Salem (Eds.), Divorce and family mediation: Models, techniques, and applications (pp. 29-52). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Moore, C. W. (2014). The mediation process: Practical strategies for resolving conflict (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Wiley.

Picard, C., & Jull, M. (2012). Learning through deepening conversations: A key strategy of insight mediation. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 29(2), 151-176.

Winslade, J., & Monk, G. (2000). Narrative mediation: A new approach to conflict resolution. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Wiley.

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