By Zena D. Zumeta, J.D.

This article first appeared in the Newsletter of the National Association for Community Mediation and is reproduced with kind permission of the author and the NAFCM.

Mediators around the country find themselves uncomfortable with what is being called mediation in their own and other areas. Accusations are made that one or another approach to mediation is not “real” mediation or are not what clients wanted. In addition, many clients and attorneys are confused about what mediation is and is not, and are not sure what they will get if they go to mediation.

Facilitative Mediation

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, there was only one type of mediation being taught and practiced, which is now being called “Facilitative Mediation”. In facilitative mediation, the mediator structures a process to assist the parties in reaching a mutually agreeable resolution. The mediator asks questions; validates and normalizes parties’ points of view; searches for interests underneath the positions taken by parties; and assists the parties in finding and analyzing options for resolution. The facilitative mediator does not make recommendations to the parties, give his or her own advice or opinion as to the outcome of the case, or predict what a court would do in the case. The mediator is in charge of the process, while the parties are in charge of the outcome.Facilitative mediators want to ensure that parties come to agreements based on information and understanding. They predominantly hold joint sessions with all parties present so that the parties can hear each other’s points of view, but hold caucuses regularly. They want the parties to have the major influence on decisions made, rather than the parties’ attorneys.

Facilitative mediators want to ensure that parties come to agreements based on information and understanding. They predominantly hold joint sessions with all parties present so that the parties can hear each other’s points of view, but hold caucuses regularly. They want the parties to have the major influence on decisions made, rather than the parties’ attorneys.Facilitative mediation grew up in the era of volunteer dispute resolution

Facilitative mediation grew up in the era of volunteer dispute resolution centers, in which the volunteer mediators were not required to have substantive expertise concerning the area of the dispute, and in which most often there were no attorneys present. The volunteer mediators came from all backgrounds. These things are still true today, but in addition many professional mediators, with and without substantive expertise, also practice facilitative mediation.

Evaluative Mediation

Evaluative mediation is a process modeled on settlement conferences held by judges. An evaluative mediator assists the parties in reaching resolution by pointing out the weaknesses of their cases, and predicting what a judge or jury would be likely to do. An evaluative mediator might make formal or informal recommendations to the parties as to the outcome of the issues. Evaluative mediators are concerned with the legal rights of the parties rather than needs and interests, and evaluate based on legal concepts of fairness. Evaluative mediators meet most often in separate meetings with the parties and their attorneys, practicing “shuttle diplomacy”. They help the parties and attorneys evaluate their legal position and the costs vs. the benefits of pursuing a legal resolution rather than settling in mediation. The evaluative mediator structures the process, and directly influences the outcome of mediation.

Evaluative mediation emerged in court-mandated or court-referred mediation. Attorneys normally work with the court to choose the mediator, and are active participants in the mediation. The parties are most often present in the mediation, but the mediator may meet with the attorneys alone as well as with the parties and their attorneys. There is an assumption in evaluative mediation that the mediator has substantive expertise or legal expertise in the substantive area of the dispute. Because of the connection between evaluative mediation and the courts, and because of their comfort level with settlement conferences, most evaluative mediators are attorneys.

Transformative Mediation

Transformative mediation is the newest concept of the three, named by Folger and Bush in their book THE PROMISE OF MEDIATION in 1994. Transformative mediation is based on the values of “empowerment” of each of the parties as much as possible, and “recognition” by each of the parties of the other parties’ needs, interests, values and points of view. The potential for transformative mediation is that any or all parties or their relationships may be transformed during the mediation. Transformative mediators meet with parties together, since only they can give each other “recognition”.

In some ways, the values of transformative mediation mirror those of early facilitative mediation, in its interest in empowering parties and transformation. Early facilitative mediators fully expected to transform society with these pro-peace techniques. And they did. Modern transformative mediators want to continue that process by allowing and supporting the parties in mediation to determine the direction of their own process. In transformative mediation, the parties structure both the process and the outcome of mediation, and the mediator follows their lead.

Pros and Cons

Supporters say that facilitative and transformative mediation empower parties, and help the parties take responsibility for their own disputes and the resolution of the disputes. Detractors say that facilitative and transformative mediation takes too long, and too often ends without agreement. They worry that outcomes can be contrary to standards of fairness and that mediators in these approaches cannot protect the weaker party.

Supporters of transformative mediation say that facilitative and evaluative mediators put too much pressure on clients to reach a resolution. They believe that the clients should decide whether they really want a resolution, not the mediator.

Supporters of evaluative mediation say that clients want an answer if they can’t reach agreement, and they want to know that their answer is fair. They point to ever-increasing numbers of clients for evaluative mediation to show that the market supports this type of mediation more than others. Detractors of evaluative mediation say that its popularity is due to the myopia of attorneys who choose evaluative mediation because they are familiar with the process. They believe that the clients would not choose evaluative mediation if given enough information to make a choice. They also worry that the evaluative mediator may not be correct in his or her evaluation of the case.

Strong Feelings

Mediators tend to feel strongly about these styles of mediation. Most mediation training still teaches the facilitative approach, although some attorney-mediators train in the evaluative model, and Folger and Bush have a complement of trainers teaching the transformative approach. Many mediation standards (from national and state mediation organizations, and state legislative and judicial mediation programs) are silent on this issue; others prohibit evaluation, and a few require it. For example, the Mediation Council of Illinois Standard IV (C) Best Interests of Children states: “While the mediator has a duty to be impartial, the mediator also has a responsibility to promote the best interests of the children and other persons who are unable to give voluntary, informed consent…….If the mediator believes that any proposed agreement does not protect the best interests of the children, the mediator has a duty to inform the couple of his or her belief and its basis.”

Another example of these strong feelings is that in 1997, Florida’s professional standards for med