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About Mediation Schools ... in a Nutshell

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

I have already written in my previous post that by Mediation we mean a model for resolving multiple conflicts. We will come across quite different approaches, ideas and specific mediation techniques depending on which school the particular Mediator believes in.

(Of course, it's especially exciting that many Mediators don't even know themselves to which school they belong to. We shouldn't be so surprised by this fact, just think about it, in many areas of life we may be doing something in practice, even on a professional level, but we are not aware of the theoretical / taxonomic background: for example, in order to master a language perfectly, it is not necessary to know which branch of the language family it belongs to.)

In Mediation theory, it is customary to name four schools, with serious Latin words already mentioned in my last post. What we can say about all four schools, and what can thus be considered a basic rule in Mediation, is that the Mediator never represents the interests of either party, they are unbiased and impartial (or rather standing on both parties' sides, but it could be the subject of a separate blog post).

Evaluative mediation gets its name from the fact that the Mediator evaluates the case and expresses their opinion and give their advice about it (this is the only school that supports giving advice). They can do so because they are an expert of the case and, by virtue of their qualifications and professional experiences, they are able to foresee the (legal) consequences of a particular case and, accordingly, to influence the parties to conclude the agreement in accordance with their own ideas. They can even use manipulative methods while leading the parties to a solution that they believe is the optimal alternative to the outcome of a lengthy lawsuit.

According to the representatives of the facilitative mediation school, on the other hand, it is not allowed for the Mediator to give advice or to express an opinion. They are not experts of the case, they are experts of Mediation: they are there to help, to facilitate communication between the parties, to create the right framework in which an agreement can be reached. However, the agreement is fully worked out by the parties themselves, with the mediator only assisting in the process.

A facilitative mediator does not encourage the parties to express their feelings about the case, they only deal with them in very exceptional cases and only superficially. Representatives of the narrative and transformative schools, on the other hand, believe that if we are looking for a really lasting solution to the conflict, then emotions must be addressed as well. Without going into details (as this could also be a separate blog post), it is important to note here that the term “adressing emotions” should not be thought of as psychotherapy, rather as the ability to articulate needs.

According to narrative Mediators, the goal is not so much to resolve a specific conflict and create an agreement during Mediation. It is much more important that the general attitude of the parties towards the other party changes, the image of each other in their heads, or the story is rewritten. To do this, the parties tell stories (even the Mediator tells stories) that allow them to question certain instincts and rewrite their own stories, which will ultimately lead to a transformation of the relationship between them.

Finally, the same can be said about transformative mediation: here, too, the primary goal is to change and transform the relationship and communication between the parties in the long run (whether an agreement is reached on the specific case is therefore secondary). However, this transformation does not, or does not exclusively, take place through rewriting stories, but also through transforming negative emotions into positive needs. The essence of transformative mediation is that if the Mediator can create a safe space and can enable the parties to express their emotions and to turn them into needs, and the other party becomes capable of recognizing these needs, then such understanding can be achieved that makes future cooperation possible.

Source: Kertész Tibor: Mediáció a gyakorlatban, Bíbor Kiadó, Miskolc, 2010 (pp. 97- 114)

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