Many ADR bloggers (including me) have written extensively about the imposition of standards or the implementation of “best practices” in mediation.
This week, Diane Levin at the Mediation Channel, hits the issue out of the ballpark, summarizing the arguments on both sides; providing solid resources for study and analysis; and, raising the important issues the mediation community will ignore to its detriment.
As Levin writes in To certify or not to certify:
One of the burning questions the U.S. mediation profession faces is a difficult one: is it time to professionalize the field and establish more formal mechanisms for credentialing?
As of today, the private practice of mediation in the United States is unlicensed and unregulated by the state. No public licensing boards oversee or regulate the private practice of mediation. Barriers to entry into the profession are virtually non-existent; no degree, no experience, no training is required before you order the business cards that proclaim you to be a mediator.
This has understandably caused consternation among the many members of the profession concerned with quality assurance. It certainly troubles me, a trainer of mediators. And it has prompted some, like my colleague Victoria Pynchon, to wonder out loud whether it’s time to license mediators to protect the public from the unscrupulous.
As the use of ADR has spread, numerous institutions, providers of mediation services, and membership associations for ADR professionals have endeavored to set standards of quality for mediators. In Massachusetts, for example, the Supreme Judicial Court promulgated qualification standards for mediators serving in court-connected programs (PDF) (which set the bar very low indeed, requiring only 30 hours of training for mediators together with only minimal mentoring and evaluation). The Florida Court System has also established standards for mediators (PDF) providing services in programs under its purview. Meanwhile, private companies such as Mediate.com have taken steps to establish their own credentialing system, or, like the Association for Conflict Resolution, are weighing credentialing or certification for their members. Arguments in favor of credentialing run the gamut, from the paternalistic (quality assurance protects the consumer) to the pragmatic (professionalization improves the ability of mediators to compete in the marketplace; credentialing will increase mediators’ professional credibility).
As more people enter the profession, and as more consumers use ADR services, market forces and the pressures within and outside our profession push us, reluctantly perhaps, but inexorably, toward professionalization.
Here’s my two sense (in bullet points so as not to bore you with prose).
Those are my thoughts. Diane’s post contains many more, together with some great links to the thoughts of others on both sides of the debate. Don’t miss it.
Michelle LeBaron expresses her thoughts on why the mediation field may be more ethno-culturally diverse in Canada than in the United States.By Michelle LeBaron