We often hear the word “mediation,” but it is not always clear exactly what that means. Before addressing one particular type — facilitative mediation — it is important to understand that there are actually three main types of mediation: facilitative, evaluative and transformative. In addition, some mediators use a mix of styles, depending on the case.
The evaluative style of mediation is similar to a court settlement conference. The parties remain in separate rooms, for the most part, and the mediator “shuttles” back and forth between the parties. Usually the mediator evaluates the legal merits of each party’s case, pointing out weaknesses in one or both party’s positions. The focus is on the law, rather than on the underlying needs and interests of the parties.
A facilitative mediator, rather than focussing on legal issues, facilitates a conversation between the parties, and for the most part the parties remain in the same room. By asking questions, summarizing what he or she has heard, and directing the discussion, the mediator helps illuminate the parties’ individual points of view, their interests and their needs. Through this process the parties are frequently able to reach a mutually acceptable solution of their own creation.
Like facilitative mediation, transformative mediation presupposes that the parties should create their own solution. Transformative mediation goes a step further, however, in moving the parties towards full recognition of each other’s interests and needs, and in transforming their relationship.
Most facilitative mediators begin with an initial phone call during which each party separately explains his or her perspective on the dispute. Then, if the parties decide to proceed and it is determined that the matter is appropriate for mediation, the session is scheduled. The actual mediation begins with an introduction by the mediator and an explanation of the ground rules of mediation, including any ground rules that the parties wish to propose. These ground rules are designed to promote an atmosphere of safety and respect.
The mediation then proceeds with each party presenting his or her perspective regarding the dispute, during which time the other party is asked to listen openly. Following this, the mediator and parties work together to create a list of issues to be addressed. Once these issues have been fully aired, the parties begin to generate options for resolution. In this “options” phase of the mediation, the parties are urged to be creative and open, and to refrain from judging the proposals. After reviewing and discussing the options, the parties then move into the negotiations phase of the mediation, during which they consider the various options and work towards resolution.