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How is Mediation different from Counselling?

A question we are often asked about our work is "How is Mediation different from Counselling?".

In counselling, the "conversation" is often between the individual or the couple and the counsellor, whereas in mediation the "conversation" is a negotiation between the parties with the mediator or mediators helping to facilitate dialogue about each party's priorities, expectations, assumptions, concerns, and hopes for the outcome of their negotiations (Dunlop, 2013).

When using a mediation process, parties are encouraged to engage in or continue with individual or couples counselling. Mediation does not take the place of counselling. Counselling is conducted by a counsellor and involves therapeutic analysis and insights. Mediation is a practical approach to solving conflict relying on dispute resolution techniques. Mediation is guided by a trained mediator, however, it is shaped by the couple and their unique needs. The benefit of Mediation is that it teaches conflict resolution, constructive communication and a deeper understanding of the issues and conflicts of the participants. The mediation process helps couples find their own solutions (Green, 2009).

Counselling and mediation are both valuable ways to resolve issues in a relationship, and can even complement each other when used in combination. Counselling is a process that focuses on digging into the past causes of current problems to effect change. Mediation focuses on resolving a current problem, with a goal of improving the future. Mediation is an approach focused on identifying where each party stands; why they feel the way they do; and most importantly, how they can reach a resolution together. Mediation’s goal is to find practical ways to make positive changes that everyone can agree on. A mediator is highly trained in the art of impartial facilitation. Their role is to guide participants through a calm, focused conversation, ensuring that each party has an opportunity to share their story and help parties work toward understanding each other's beliefs, fears, values, and needs (Dolak, n.d.).

When I think about the work we do, I like to summarize it by using this analogy shared by a mentor of mine, Faye Moen:

"When we drive, we might glance at the rear-view mirror, but it is important for us to keep our eyes on the road. If we spend all our time looking in the rear-view mirror, we are bound to crash. Mediation is the process of driving with our eyes on the road, looking forward toward the future"

Thank you for reading.

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Works Cited:

Counselling and Mediation - Celebrating the Differences, July 29, 2013, Nigel Dunlop

What is Marital Mediation or Mediation To Stay Married?, August 2009, Angela Ioana Green

Counseling vs. Mediation, no date, Sharon Dolak

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