Mediation training comes in a multitude of flavors. To make sure you get really good training and an excellent return on your training investment, here’s a guide to help you choose the right flavor for you.
Questions to ask yourself
Start with your own clarity. Your answers to the following questions help you steer yourself to the kind of mediation trainer most likely to help you achieve your goals.
If you want mediation training because you think you want to become a professional or volunteer mediator, you must understand that the basic mediation course (usually 30-40 hours in the U.S.) will not sufficiently prepare you. It may give you a sense of whether or not you’d be any good at mediating and it may (depending how good the trainer is) set a foundation for future training.
Think of basic mediation training as way to test the waters of the field to see if you like it and might one day be good at it. Regardless of your profession of origin (and I’m talking to you, attorneys and counselors), basic is called “basic” for a reason.
If you’re thinking of becoming a professional mediator, this question is about having an honest talk with yourself. For the most part, there are not many mediator jobs out there just waiting for newly minted mediators to apply. To work full-time as a mediator in the U.S. (and many other countries) means that you will likely have to rely on building your own business. If that excites you, great. If it doesn’t, think very carefully about what could turn into a frustrating career choice.
If you’re looking for mediation training in order to improve your skills for handling conflict on the job (maybe you’re a supervisor or a human resources professional, for instance), look for a training that includes scenarios, roleplays, and case studies for the situations you’re likely to face at work. Some mediation trainers will focus heavily on litigated cases, for instance, or community mediation cases (e.g., landlord-tenant disputes), and those may not give you what you most need to learn.
Most mediators sign up for training in their own back yards because it’s less of a hassle and saves money. Some mediators specifically want mediation training online for the same reason. Be careful of these choices…you’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “penny wise and pound foolish.”
Please understand that I am not saying you should never choose a trainer in your back yard or never sign up for online mediation training. I am saying that investing in high quality training makes all the difference in your success as a mediator. The best mediation training may be a distance from you. Do your research. Ask successful mediators where they got their training. Ask others who’ve trained with that person what they think.
Online mediation training has its limits because mediation isn’t a “spectator sport”…any seasoned mediator will tell you there’s a huge difference between thinking about what you’d do (or writing what you’d do) and actually having something useful come out of your mouth in the midst of other people’s conflict. The technology is getting there but most mediation training online is still lectures and, with any luck, exercises you must do. That’s not good enough.