When I became a divorce mediator I teamed up with an attorney who had also just taken the divorce mediation training. Honestly, we did the best job we could using the co-mediation model, but really didn’t have a clue. We didn’t charge the first few couples because we were practicing our newly learned skills on them.
I understand that when starting out in mediation, working with a partner can help. Places like the Community Dispute Resolution Centers (CDRC) use this model exclusively, but once you’ve learned how to do your job as a mediator, do you really need another mediator working with you? Worrying about what the other person is going to do or say can prevent you from moving forward and completing the mediation in an efficient manner.
Think about it. Why do you need two people to do one job?
How many other professions use two practitioners for a client?
- Doctors – one looks in your ears while the other checks your toes?
- Dentists – one holds you down and the other drills?
- Psychiatrists – one asks you questions and the other analyzes the answers?
- Car Mechanics – one is tapping on the engine and the other is looking underneath for the source of the strange noise?
- Barbers – One combs the hair and the other cuts?
- Plumbers – One flushes and the other determines the velocity of the water emptying out?
In a professional setting, two halves do not necessarily make a whole, but rather can create the appearance that neither one is qualified on their own.
My worst co-mediation nightmare is mediating with someone who says something awful and derails the entire process. The story my friend, an experienced mediator, tells is that she co-mediated with an inexperienced mediator. During the mediation, there was an issue that no one was discussing. My friend just couldn’t put her finger on it. The inexperienced mediator was bouncing around in her chair and looking like she wanted to say something. Finally, the client came out with, “The reason I want a divorce is that I have come out and I am gay.” The inexperienced co-mediator said, “You see? I knew she was a lesbian! I could tell right away.” My friend nearly fell off her chair.
Is the co-mediation model training wheels for mediators? Yes, for the most part, I think it is. That is not to say that there aren’t any successful co-mediators, but they are the exception rather than the rule.