July 28, 2021
By Chuck Doran
So you want to become a mediator? Perhaps you were able to help colleagues or family members work through their differences and you found the role fulfilling. Perhaps someone suggested that you would make a good mediator. Or maybe the idea of becoming a neutral who works with others to help them resolve their differences is a role that fits with your personality and professional goals.
Regardless of your motivation, the first step to becoming a mediator is to take a mediation training. There are many training providers in the marketplace, each with their own objectives, purposes, and personalities. This checklist is designed to provide you with five key considerations when choosing a mediation training program.
1) What are you hoping to accomplish after completing your mediation training?
The answer to this question will provide you with direction about the type of mediation training provider that will help you meet your goals. Is it your intention to mediate professionally and make mediation a subset of your current practice? Is your goal to become full-time mediator over a period of time? Or do you want to take a mediation training so you can volunteer your services within your community? Perhaps you never plan to mediate and want to take a mediation training to better represent your clients in mediation. Once you have answered the “why” question for yourself, ask different mediation training providers what their program is designed to help participants accomplish in addition to learning mediation skills. The training provider should be able to tell you how their program will be able to help you identify and meet your goals.
2) Who are the mediation trainers?
A mediation training team typically consists of one or two lead trainers and a number of role-play coaches who work with small groups of trainees to help them build their skills in mediated simulations. A key consideration for you when choosing a training program is the mediation experience of the trainers. Take a close look at the training team’s online bios and speak with the lead trainer. Do the members of the training team make a full-time living as professional mediators or is this a part-time endeavor for them? What types of cases do they mediate? How often do they mediate? The totality of a trainer’s time at the mediation table will define the depth of what they can share with you as you look to learn from their experience. Once you have a better understanding of the background and experience of each trainer and coach, you can make an informed decision as to whether they can help you meet your goals.
3) Mediation training schedule
There are generally two schedule options for mediation training – programs that take place during the weekday and programs that take place on weekends and weeknights, so as to avoid business hours. In general, participants who attend programs during the business week travel in from out of state or out of the country. They usually have an internal role at a company either as general counsel, HR Director, or other officer. A mediation training held on weekends and weeknights is usually more convenient for participants who live and work locally and benefit from the non-consecutive day schedule. In addition to the weekday and weekend schedule options, many training providers are offering live and online mediation training programs via Zoom. Look for a program that meets the needs of your schedule and networking goals.
4) Inquire about post-training opportunities to mediate
There are plenty of mediation training providers that are willing to provide you with training. Are they also able to assist you to get opportunities to mediate after the training program? This is a critical consideration that mediators in training often fail to ask until it’s too late. Ask the mediation training provider about what they will do to assist you to provide you with opportunities to mediate after you’ve completed their training programs. Experience as a mediator is like trying to get credit with a bank – it’s tough to get credit if you don’t have credit. Getting experience as a mediator provides you with opportunities so build your skills and see patterns in your practice. Finding a mediation training program that can provide you with regular (pro-bono) opportunities to mediate following the training is a critical consideration that will enable you to gain and market your experience in the future.
5) Plan for success
Regardless of where you decide to take your mediation training, your training provider should help you think through what steps you can take to achieve your goals. This conversation usually takes place prior to registering, during the time that you are asking questions about the program and the training team. Also be sure to ask whether the training program should include sections on the business of mediation, marketing considerations, and how the mediation profession works. Ask your training provider about what resources are available following the training program should you decide to pursue becoming a mediator.
Taking a mediation training should be an exciting, positive, and life-changing experience for you. The right training program will challenge your assumptions about conflict, prepare you to pursue mediation professionally, and provide you with skills that you can use in your personal life. Taking the time get answers from prospective mediation training providers is a critical first step in your development as a mediator.