Mediation Survivor’s Handbook: A Practical Guide to Mediation for the Parties (Book Review)

Peg Nichols: Mediation Survivor’s Handbook: A Practical Guide to Mediation for the Parties (Weir Box Publications, Olathe, Kansas 2006).

Mediation Survivor’s Handbook: A Practical Guide to Mediation for the Parties, is an easy-to-read, introduction for lay people facing their first mediation. It is directed specifically to those who, whether represented by attorneys or not, can expect to be the principal participants in family, probate, victim-offender, peer (school), small claims and other mediations where attorneys, if present, generally remain in the background.

Author Peg Nichols is a long-time mediator, mediation observer, and international peace advocate who deserves much of the credit for the model mediation program in the small claims court of Johnson County, Kansas. Some mediators will take exception to her unequivocal insistence that the litmus test for determining that what occurs is a mediation and not some other form of alternative dispute resolution is whether or not the principal of client self-determination is adhered to not only in the selection of the subject and the outcome but throughout the process as well. Regardless of whether or not a particular mediator’s style passes the writer’s litmus test, newcomers to mediation are likely to find invaluable her practical tips and step-by-step, nuts and bolts description of the procedure that participants are likely to experience in each of the venues discussed.

Many, if not most, mediators include various “styles” in their “toolbox.” As the writer notes, identifying the mediator’s particular “style(s)” adds little to the experience itself. Nevertheless, readers who want this information will also find brief explanations and definitions to help them distinguish “transformative,” “facilitative” and “evaluative” approaches.

Ms. Nichols suggests criteria for selecting a mediator, ways to prepare for the mediation, questions to ask before and during the mediation, and behavior appropriate to mediation. While many mediators choose not to meet participants prior to the mediation, many of us find that individual interviews and preparation prior to the mediation are the key to the conduct of the mediation and to the outcome.

To the extent that client preparation plays a significant role in the conduct and outcome of the mediation, this unpretentious and concise “handbook” is a gem. At a minimum, it should soften clients’ initial nervousness and anxiety. Many who read it will arrive at mediations more hopeful, better focused, and more capable of working toward solutions.

Peg Nichols has given us an excellent resource for lay people considering mediation and for professionals to recommend to clients about to engage in mediation.


Sharon Lowenstein

Sharon Lowenstein is a Kansas and Missouri collaborative law attorney, mediator and mediator trainer in Greater Kansas City. She will be a presenter on the Mediation Training Institute International’s Mediation-at-Sea cruise for mediators and collaborative professionals November 4-11, 2007 from New York to Bermuda.  See: see For more information… MORE >

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