Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How I Would License Mediators

Mediation will never become a respected profession, as I believe it should be, unless it can advertise to its customers that the mediator has been licensed by the state in which the mediator practices. While one may argue that this is not the way things should be, it is simply the way of the world. Customers who need any medical, legal, plumbing, electrical, home contractor (etc.) services expect the provider to be licensed by the state. Why should mediators be any different?

The major complaint lodged by anyone opposing mediation licensing is that mediation practice is too variable and idiosyncratic to apply a single licensing test. I have discovered a mediation test that I think makes a lot of sense and certainly can be applied by state mediation licensing boards in a way that will ensure to all customers of mediation that mediators possess minimum mediation skills. It is the test used by Safe Horizon in qualifying their community mediators.

I am a commercial mediator, but I recently decided to acquire training in community mediation. Two reasons: first, I think it is always good for a mediator to venture outside the mediator's comfort zone, as it sharpens skills and provides perspective; also, it allows me to provide community service in a way that uses my mediation skills.

Safe Horizons uses a three pronged certification methodology for their community mediators. First, there is a standard mediation skills training program, which I believe is 40 hours of lecture and role playing. I was permitted to opt out of this since I already have acquired over 100 hours of similar mediation training. Second, there is a 12 week long apprenticeship program (one 3 hour session per week), where four mediators in training conduct actual mediations under the supervision of a mentor. If there are no mediations scheduled for your meeting, the mentor discusses prior mediations conducted by the group, or the group may observe and critique videos of role play mediations. Third, you are required to conduct a mock mediation with role players which is videotaped and subjected to evaluation. The video evaluation of your mock mediation is intended to verify that you have sufficient mediation skills to professionally mediate a mock mediation.

Your video is evaluated by the Safe Horizon mediation training staff and, if you pass, you are accepted into the Safe Horizons mediation program. You become a certified Safe Horizons mediator once you have conducted some 20 mediations.

Now, why can't this model be used for state licensure of mediators generally. The evaluators for the video evaluation need not subscribe to any particular form of mediation. They could be provided an evaluation form (as are the Safe Horizons video evaluators) that could specify those mediation skills that are generally observed as common to the mediation practice, all of which would be codified in the state mediation licensing statute.

If you purport to be a professional mediator, you should be able to prove that you possess a minimum level of expertise in a mock mediation video, just as a plumber must display rudimentary plumbing skills before an examination board before the plumber enters your kitchen (except for "joe the plumber"...which leads one to consider whether mediators really should accept the notion that they are not required to seek any more qualification than that forgettable charlatan).