Mediation is a process whereby a mediator manages the negotiation process between two parties. It is important to understand that in mediation the parties to the mediation make the decisions. In court the Judge listens to both parties and decides. In mediation the parties decide themselves. As your mediator, I will guide the decision-making process and facilitate your interaction. Every case is unique, but as a rule, I will lead you through the following basic mediation process:

1. I will discuss the situation with both of you and learn more about the needs and desires you have. From this we will determine if mediation is the best process to consider for this situation and if so, what is the best approach to take.

2. If we decide to proceed, we will sign an ‘Agreement to Mediate’ document. The ‘Agreement to Mediate’ includes three important aspects of confidentiality: (1) I will not discuss your case with anyone else unless I have the express permission of both of you (2) what occurs in our mediation efforts may not to be used as evidence in a court dispute and (3) if subpoened I will not testify in court.

3. We will then complete one or more joint sessions to find mutual agreement. During the joint session we may decide that I should meet separately with each party in a caucus meeting. However, we will primarily work together in a truthfull, respectful and effective manner to arrive at an understanding and action plan that is sincerely desired by both parties. A session usually lasts from 90 minutes to 2 hours in length.

4. When both of you are satisfied with the developed agreement, I will document this in a ‘Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and provide copies for both of you. There are several ways the agreement may be formalized if so desired.

Family Conferencing is a process whereby appropriate extended family members, family friends and relevant professionals gather to develop a plan for the well being of a family member or members. I will facilitate the Family Conference session which typically takes from 3 to 5 hours to complete. A Family Conference requires on average of 5 to 7 hours of preparation time on my part to invite and prepare participants. The process for a family group conference goes as follows:

1. I explain (a) that the purpose of this conference is to develop an action plan for the care and well-being of the family member(s) of concern (b) that the decision-making process is a consensus process and a plan will only be enacted if all participants agree to it and (c) that I will serve as the facilitator and manage the group interaction such that the climate of the conference is a safe and respectful place to be sincere and truthful.

2. I will then explain the importance of confidentiality with regards to our conference. I will explain that we must all agree to the understanding that what transpires in the conference is not to be discussed with anyone outside of this conference unless the individual has the written permission of all other participants. Of course this includes myself, the facilitator. When everyone confirms their agreement to this rule of confidentiality, we can begin the conference.

3. Participants introduce themselves and share their hopes for the conference.

4. We have group discussion to develop three lists on the flip chart and post them up on the walls: (1) What is going well for family member(s) of concern? (2) What are our concerns for the family member(s) of concern? and (3) What are the ‘Ideas’ we should consider as possible actions to be taken?

5. After constructing these three lists we then have a group discussion to evaluate the ideas and develop a plan of action.

6. When we arrive at a consensus agreement, I will document the agreement in a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ and distribute a copy to all participants.