Recently I was a bit taken aback by a comment from someone who is steeped in a therapy philosophy; even though this person was a seasoned professional, her comment indicated a lack of a basic understanding of the difference between mediation and therapy. Many times over the decades I have run into the difference of purpose, goals, and process between the mental health professionals and the mediators. But I thought by now the two fields understood each other. With mediation having been around for so many years now, I was surprised that there is still confusion.
Do mediators need to be doing more education about their process? Have you run into that lack of understanding these days?
Sometimes though I run into mediators who don't seem to understand their own process; they think mediation can resolve any conflict. I don't share that opinion about mediation's universal power. How about you?
There are many, many methods of resolving disputes in addition to mediation and therapy (and of course litigation). For addressing those most intractable conflicts, I have learned of a new book: The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts. (Well, to be accurate, the book is new to me, but has been out for over a year.) The author looks at one approach to disputes probably not resolvable by such methods as mediation or therapy.
From "Intractable Conflicts" (Monitor on Psychology-American Psychological Association):
Intractable conflicts don't seem to respond to traditional conflict resolution strategies, such as mediation. These tactics "not only seem not to have an impact, but they seem to make them worse," says [Peter] Coleman. To understand how these conflicts can be resolved, Coleman and his colleagues employ tools from another field — complexity science. The researchers study conflict in the lab and the field, and they develop models that incorporate some of the most important parameters. Using complexity science to understand intractable conflicts enables Coleman and his colleagues to view them in a different way and find new strategies for interrupting the patterns of violence.
Click to watch a video of Coleman talking about his complexity approach to conflict. More videos here. And here.
I have the book on order and look forward to reading it when I return to Colorado. If I have any questions, the first expert I will turn to will be my old friend Irene Sanders, executive director and founder of the Washington Center for Complexity & Public Policy. Click for an interview of Irene.
Want to know what I learn? Watch for a blog post (or two) here at idealawg.