Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Choosing a Mediator

Mary G. Marcus, Ph.D.

    If you’re President of the United States and you’re looking for a mediator for a diplomatic crisis in some foreign hot spot, you have George Mitchell, Dennis Ross, and Richard Holbrooke on your speed dial. They’re all high profile diplomats who have mediated many international disputes.

    But, if you’re the president of a homeowner’s association or the vice-president of human resources for a company or a couple seeking a divorce, or a family struggling with conflict about where would be the best place for grandma to live, how do you find a good mediator?
    Clients are often embarrassed to say they found their mediator in the yellow pages or on-line, but that’s the way most people find a mediator. A few clients call a mediator because they’ve been referred by a friend, an attorney, or a mental health professional. If you haven’t been referred by someone you trust, how do you select a mediator?
    Some states, like Florida, certify mediators but many states, like Arizona, do not. If a mediator has been certified, that means the mediator has met some criteria for training and experience and ethical practice. If a state doesn’t certify mediators, check if the mediator is a practitioner member of an organization that requires training, experience, and adherence to standards of practice for its members. A nation-wide organization for mediators, the Association for Conflict Resolution is a good resource for finding qualified mediators. A state-wide organization of mediators is also a good bet for locating a skilled mediator who adheres to accepted standards of practice.
    Now that you have some names of mediators, it’s time to ask them some questions before you hire them. First, what training in mediation do they have? It’s essential that a mediator have some training in mediation, which at a minimum should be 40 hours of basic training and several hours of annual continuing education in mediation. Next, what kind of experience do they have in mediation? As in every line of work, experience makes one a more skillful mediator. Does the mediator spell out his/her responsibilities in the mediation and yours in a written “Agreement to Mediate” and does he/she use a written fee agreement to spell out your costs? Finally, is the mediator committed to protecting clients’ interests by carrying liability insurance?
    Asking these few simple questions will help you find a qualified mediator who can help you resolve your conflict.
    Mary G. Marcus, Ph.D (3) 4/6/10. See more about Mary G. Marcus, Ph.D. at


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