The Process of Family Mediation
Clients are referred to Mary Sanger for mediation by a variety of sources, but predominately they are referred by other therapists. Therapists in general understand that a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist is trained and qualified to utilize the stages of mediation to enhance the ongoing relationship of the parties and other family members.
Most mediators are trained in some type of conflict resolution and in general, follow a six-stage model for mediation sessions. Here are the stages of mediation:
Stage 1: Mediator’s Opening Statement. After everyone is seated, the mediator introduces everyone, explains the goals and rules of the mediation, and encourages each side to work cooperatively toward a settlement.
Stage 2: Clients Opening Statements. Each party is invited to describe, in his or her own words, what the dispute is about, how he or she has been affected by it, and to present some general ideas about resolving it. While one person is speaking, the other is encouraged not to interrupt and to practice good listening skills.
Stage 3: Joint Discussion. The mediator may try to get the parties talking directly about what was said in the opening statements. This is the time to determine what issues need to be addressed and in what order they would like to address those issues.
Stage 4: Private Meetings. Sometimes a private meeting is used as a chance for each party to meet privately with the mediator (usually in a nearby room) to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of his or her position and for settlement. The mediator may meet privately with each side just once or several times, as needed.
Stage 5: Joint Negotiation. After private meetings, the mediator will usually bring the parties back together to negotiate directly.
Stage 6: Closure. This is the end of the mediation. If an agreement has been reached, the mediator or attorneys (if present) puts its provisions in writing. Each point of the agreement is reviewed and discussed. Consequences of each decision are weighed. The mediator may ask each side to sign the written agreement or suggest they take it to lawyers for review before signing. If the parties want, they can write up and sign a legally binding contract at the end of the mediation session(s). If no agreement was reached, the mediator will review whatever progress has been made and advise each party of their options, such as meeting again later, going to arbitration, or going to court.
Mary Sanger is a trained mediator in divorce and family mediation.