Comments: Professionalization Of Conflict Resolvers

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Scott , Dallas TX   08/25/09
I agree
I agree with Ms Sword. As a CPA for the last 34 years, I can tell you that the extensive certification process for CPAs in the US does not assure that CPAs provide quality services. In fact, it creates a very misleading impression that CPAs possess much more knowledge than they actually do. That should be obvious to everyone after the embarrassing disasters in the CPA profession over the last few years. I dare say the same is true of the legal profession. There is no reason for anyone to believe that a certification process for mediators will in any way improve the quality of the services in the profession.

Amanda Bucklow, London   08/04/09
Ms Sword you are not such a lone voice! The concern about regulation first came to my mind in about 2000. It was the motivation for my research project about the skills, attributes, strengths and behaviours of effective mediators the results of which showed that over 90% of those skills etc were person related. This was based on the responses of both mediators and end users. A total of over 70 hours of interviews and a total of nearly 2500 commercial mediations. At the time of the research (2004 - 2006), I asked each interviewee about their views on regulation and not one said that it would add value to the process or the profession. Most said it was a layer of cost that the profession could do without and that the bureaucracy would become a deterrent to good people. A significant number said "where is the mischief?" The most interesting results were related to the perceived needs of the end users about what they wanted in a mediator. Asked what they considered important when choosing a mediator they listed all the tangible skills and included specialist/expert knowledge. Asked what they found most effective during the mediation and their answers were all around personal attributes and behaviours. I think there are two points which have not yet been widely made and they are: wherever uniformity and standards have become a requirement and they are decided by committee, they have tended to be lower than the best, and the time it takes to agree and introduce amendments means that the growth, flexibility and adaptability of that role or profession has been arrested and it loses its relevance for the people it is designed to benefit - the end user. Yours is a great article. Thank you.

Clayton , Tulsa OK     07/25/09
All the
First, I have to thank Jim and John for letting such an article as this "through the gauntlet" and into a more "wholistic" approach to our profession. Thank you Deborah Sword for the inclusion of "professions and people" in society and communities of all types that are "known for their character" and sought after by people and groups to "wisely help sort out" the conflicts in life. Clearly, you say it all so well and is "resonates" in me from my organizational development and ombudsman approach. I agree, instead of "debate class" why not reformulate the learning and applied "interpersonal skills" to include "resolution and solutions" to problems and conflicts in schools. Perhaps even set up extensions of a "student council" to role play and take on "real issues" so as to demonstrate the self enabling to young people first hand. Your points and approach solves the "exponentially" climbing conflict conundrum in the world this moment, that is at such a pace, no amount of professional certification can be "churned" out fast enough to meet current and coming demand. We must all enable and develop people, provide access and education to continue to provide professional that have an alternative approach for solving problems and disputes outside of "protectionist regulatory certification" and "exclusively legal models" that often do more damage to relationships while seeking economic gain exclusively. Clayton Gilman, Organizational Ombudsman Blog

Suzanne     07/24/09
Thank you so much Deborah for your eloquent and concise analysis and perspective. As one who has never fit well in a box yet certainly knows the skills I possess and their positive benefits in the lives of others, I'd be saddened if there were rigid exclusionary certification standards that suddenly deemed me "not good enough." I'll keep doing what I do to assist people in both their internal and external conflict situations regardless of the title attributed to me, even if it can't include "mediator." Of course I agree that competency is vital for all the reasons it should be, yet I've seen many a highly academically-educated professional with letters after his or her name that are totally incompetent, as well as the opposite also being true. This discussion and debate between the two sides of our profession will undoubtedly continue - so how do we ultimately resolve our own conflict? Thank you Deborah for offering your ideas for alternative solutions, all of which I concur with.

Ken , Santa Monica CA   07/23/09
Thank you Deborah, you've written something that is really excellent and raises all the right questions. Ken

Laurie  , Akron OH   07/23/09
A Thousand Times Thanks
I support your analysis, Ms. Sword. This discussion has been decades long and divisive, and it has never been made convincingly clear to me what problem the proponents are trying to solve. I wish we would put it to rest.

Adele Bolger, Patchogue NY     07/23/09
I am trying to enter this field and in search of the accreditation requirements. This article is right on. I find that I am now released from this concern so that I can concentrate on the very real challenge of matching up my talent with educational resources, and then marketing myself in order to earn my living doing what I love. Just a note: I am a licensed (+certified) Financial Rep. That is, I've been there - done that. I have long held the view that the licensing process is just so much "smoke and mirrors". Watch the news - even the "no felons allowed" rule is no guarantee for the consumer!

Kent , Chicago IL     07/22/09
Needed to be said, and said well. Thank you.

John , Bellevue WA     07/22/09
Excellent presentation raising troubling questions about certification and credentialing. The legal and medical professions have decades if not centuries old "best practices" roots, and well defined, and limited subject matter areas of needed mastery. Even psychological counseling has emerged as a subject matter for study and area of practice over decades. Moms and dads, and other family members; local politicians and church pastors and leaders; in house human resource personnel; corporate and public entity managers; police; fire fighters; little league coaches; business partners; and myriad others are conflict resolvers. How do we begin to define those characteristics and practices that should be regulated and controlled? What are the criteria we should consider? We need to think long and hard, and suffer the anxiety of not knowing the answers, for quite a while, I think.

Diana , Orlando Fl     07/22/09
Professionalization of Conflict Resolvers
It has all been said - and well, in the previous comments. Thank you, Deborah Sword for your article.

Steve , Federal Way wa   07/22/09
Thanks for outing the self-servers
Excellent conclusion and alternatives. Those who create and control state sanctioned monopolies or professional monopolies are the benificiaries. The mantra of "protecting the consumer" is a distraction. Like most things its about money, power and control. As meditiors we should be better than that. Perhaps its the leaking out of that pent up human need to judge the worth of others (eg certify their competency) that drives proposals to license/certify/judge mediators. Thanks

Barbara B. , Laguna Woods CA     07/22/09
Re: "Professionalization of Conflict Resolvers"
Thank you, Deborah Sword, for a well researched and thought-out commentary. And my thanks to all of you who took the trouble to comment too. But believe the end result will be just as with many other professions, such as, law, social work, and even plumbing. In the end there will be licensing. This means that mediators must prove a certain level of competency as shown by a body of education and continuing education in our chosen Dispute Resolution mediation practices, even down to an area of specialized concentration. This could include other aspects besides mediation: conflict coaching, facilitating groups, ADR teaching, and ADR program design for instance. It should not preclude others from continuing as "consultants" for various areas, but it should lift a mediation standard. Demonstrating that one has passed a course of study and examination, or has years of experience does not guarantee mediator proficiency any more than does being licensed to practice law or medicine. But it surely demonstrate a determination to come up to a certain standard. While licensing only provides the standard, it should include protecting the public——a way to remove unscrupulous practitioners. As most of us are aware,there are those who give all in the profession a bad name. Best, Barbara ========================================================= Barbara B. Howard M.A., Behavioral Science: Conflict Management, & Sociology: Gerontology B.S., Business and Management MEDIATION & Change Management  It's worth your while. Suite A, Laguna Woods CA 92637-6732 949 855.3990 =========================================================

Steven Alston, Raleigh NC     07/22/09
Thanks for you article Deborah. I connected with this paragraph most: Our goal should be to have every school child trained in and understand the theory and practice of good interpersonal relationships. There should not be any mystery about conflict resolution that demands that only professionals are licensed to practice. If we are to successfully transform the future into a peaceful society, a first step is to give everyone the required skills, not hoard them for a privileged few who qualify. The proliferation of conflict resolution training courses is a start. Let us not set roadblocks in the path by letting people take the course, then making them qualify to apply the knowledge. For me, I do this work because I have a need to live in a society where people are capable and empowered to resolve their problems and conflicts, thereby creating a different, more constructive existence for all of us. As a mediator, my role is that of a guide, providing direction to a future where every individual could refer to herself/himself as a mediator if they wanted, not just a select few.

James W. Preston, Sr., Washington DC     07/22/09
Professionalization of Conflict Resolvers
Taking a deep breath and asking, "Why is this battle still being fought? I surmise that there remains two large armys of the pro and con with equal artillery to continue battle until one side runs out of ammunition. The ammunition is the number of troops from either side. To that end, what may be happening is some (outstanding) mediators have left the profession to pursue other interest, because they cannot carve out a living for a host of reasons that I rather not get into. With that said, I think what is missing from the discourse is a meeting of the minds and some honesty. I have always believed that professional, practicing mediators and other conflict resolvers should be thoroughly trained and retrained as long as they continue to practice. The certification or credentialing component needs more work and discussion before we can achieve maximum buy-in. I know there are going to be a few who might want to throw stones at me for saying this, but.. this is about (money) and who will determine and (control) national certification. If it were not for those 2 key sticking points, I believe this matter would have been resolved years ago. Also, there are the armys, which consist of attorneys and non-attorneys, and who have been aligned against each other. And, if you think that is an outdated conversation, I wouldn't take bets. My prediction is that national certification will come in some form, eventually. Until that happens or not, I maintain that we need to reevaluate how mediators are trained, and who is doing the training. Maybe that's been apart of the problem, besides those who are misplaced and probably shouldn't be in the profession, but that's another discussion thread. To that end, I have helped design a 60 to 80 hour comprehensive mediator training and certification program that will be taught at a community college. Students will study ethics, the conflict arena, and all other facets of mediation and conflict resolution, so that the next generation of professionals will be able to counter most, if not all, of what some say or think is wrong with those in the profession, today. James W. Preston, Sr.; Director of Advocacy, Mediation and Court Process Services, Justice & Mediation Service Center, Wash DC

Ann , Pittsburgh PA   07/21/09
Deborah, thank you for your article. We have a legislative advisory committee in Pennsylvania that will ultimately make recommendations regarding best practices and future direction. I am circulating your article on professionalism to the committee. There are so many cross-over boundaries in the field (or whatever it is we're in) that I'm no longer sure what differentiates mediation, facilitation, internal conflict resolution work within organizations, etc. I'm wondering how it is that what is done will ever be defined enough to honestly certify anything. And if states don't create certification, what qualifies any particular organization to do certification? Well, many questions and I appreciate your effort to keep the conversation in a wide space.

Rick Bowers, Camarillo CA     07/21/09
I feel appreciative of both your insight and your willingness to take a stand against the momentum toward credentialing and certification. From my vantage point, I have heard at least two goals. The first is to protect the public from unqualified/ineffective mediators; the second around creating a marketable “profession” (something well-respected to put on a business card). I appreciate both of these. Regarding the first goal, I found it helpful to look at another profession, psychotherapy, that struggled with this. I recently read an article by Carl Rogers, a central figure in the world of psychology, who said “I have seen the moves toward certification, licensure, attempts to exclude charlatans, from a vantage point of many years, and it is my considered judgment that they fail in their aims. I helped the APA [American Psychological Association] to form ABEPP (as it was then known) in 1947 when I was president of the APA. I was ambivalent about the move then. I wish now I had taken a stand against it” – page 383 of the May 1973 "American Psychologist." The ABEPP was the American Board of Examiners in Professional Psychology – now the American Board of Professional Psychology. Rogers goes on to suggest instead of licensing, creating a publicly accessible complaint registration system. Regarding the second goal (professionalism/marketing) – this already exists. There are many certificate and graduate programs offered at universities.

John  Cabral, Chicago IL     07/21/09
I share Ms Sword's concerns
Something about the constant talk of the lack of 'certification' and 'standards' had bothered me but until now I had no clarity on why; now I understand. The main point she makes, I thought, was: what is the damage you are trying to correct or improve with these standards? Neither in the literature or in talking to established mediators have I heard anybody articulate what the problem is that certification would be trying to address. The only concerns I could see would be that mediators who use a model I don't like would confuse clients and potential clients and others about what mediation really is. What I have seen is that attorneys and others close to the legal profession sometimes seem to believe that real mediators are the former judges, and that real mediation is the the work carried out using the evaluative model of mediation where the mediator more or less tells the parties what they need to do. I don't see how certification could address this issue. As the author says, the solution here is more education and more training, not certification. Thank you thank you to this author!! John