The development of family mediation : practitioner perspectives on education
This study explores the education and training required of family-law mediators as well as professional obstacles to further educational developments in the field. The interdisciplinary disputes occurring within the emergent family-mediation discipline and the issues of existing mediator education, the attitudes of family lawyers and mediators towards one another, and mediation's professionalization process, are examined through the eyes of mediators and family-lawyers practising in Greater London in 1987 and 1988. The basis for this study and its conclusions are: one hundred two extensive interviews with practising mediators; twenty interviews with advisors and senior representatives of all seventeen mediation services; seventeen interviews with registrars and court officials; eighty-eight responses to mediator questionnaires; one hundred fifty-three responses to solicitor questionnaires; visits to thirty-one mediation locations; and observation of sixty-one actual mediation sessions. The most important theoretical divisions among the mediation practitioners revolved around disputant autonomy, child advocacy, and therapy: the majority argued the importance to mediation of the first of these and the inappropriateness of the second and third. The study isolates and explores these divisions. Most practitioners isolated respect for disputant autonomy and conflict- resolution skills as the core attributes needed by mediators. Both the lawyers and non -lawyer mediators expressed reservations about the ability of others to engage in mediation. Most did not suggest limiting mediation to members of their own discipline. The study reveals the lack of justification for such limitations and suggests, instead, the importance of the mediator's personal characteristics. The study also reveals the educational short-comings of the practising mediators and the problematic tendency of untrained mediators to rely on methods emended from other disciplines. Both lawyers and mediators suggested fundamental changes and improvements in the education and training of family mediators.