Our previous blog on mediation qualifications is now followed with this post which covers what to look for in a mediator. Mediators can come from a variety of backgrounds and be trained in different ways. There is a feeling across the industry that we should quite simply be referred to as “mediators” regardless of our professional background. However, in the world of mediators we will often refer to “lawyer mediators” and “therapeutic mediators” to distinguish between the training and experience of a mediator.
Therapeutically or legally trained
Does it matter if your mediator is therapeutically or legally trained? That depends on your school of thought. Some people used to believe that lawyers should not train as mediators as they don’t have the necessary professional training to deal with the emotional side of a relationship breakdown or understand the psychology of people. Some other people used to think that those from a social science/therapeutic/counselling background should not mediate on matters relating to family law as the law is a complex area and without full understanding of this how can the mediator help guide the couple towards decisions that can be turned into a binding court order, particularly in relation to financial matters.
My view? I think both professional backgrounds bring different skills to the mediation room and that all these skills are useful. I do think it helps for you as a client to know about your mediators professional background as your particular circumstances may benefit more from one background than the other. For example; perhaps you have a child who has taken the breakdown of the relationship badly. A mediator with therapeutic training should be able to help the couple put together strategies to help the child through this time as well as working out the arrangements for sharing the care of the child. Another example is where perhaps there are several different types of investment funds of significant value. A mediator with legal training will be able to give information about the powers the court has to deal with those investments.
In most cases, a mediator who has been through the vigorous training required will be able to help you regardless. I have undertaken co-mediation with a mediator who has extensive training as psycho therapist and I found this to be one of the best mediations I have done. By combining our skills we helped the couple with different things during the process. The reality though, is that not everyone can afford to have two mediators in the room, but if this is an option for you then I would recommend it as it could make the time you spend in the mediation room less and be more cost effective than you realise.
So when looking for a mediator, do look carefully at their qualifications and their previous professional experience. Where you can, look for a mediator who has attained “accredited” status as this means they have proved that they have met nationally recognised standards in the mediation they provide.
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