What is Transformative Mediation and How Is It Connected to the New Ways for Families Method?

What is Transformative Mediation and How Is It Connected to the New Ways for Families Method?

By Jennifer J. Winestone, Esq., LL.M. (ADR)

“When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.”

-          Viktor Frankl

     Mediation is a negotiation that is facilitated by a neutral third party, whose job is to help disputants find a mutually acceptable resolution to their problem.  Transformative mediation is mediation’s Paleo diet.  It’s a back-to-basics and root-source approach to mediation.  Instead of seeking resolution (a settlement/agreement), transformative mediation seeks to change (transform) party-interaction, perception and approach to conflict.  And, according to the theory, this is exactly what parties are really looking to achieve in conflict resolution:

“……the help parties most want, in all types of conflict, involves helping them end the vicious circle of disempowerment, disrespect and demonization, alienation from both self and other.  Because without ending or changing that cycle, the parties cannot move beyond the negative interaction that has entrapped them and cannot escape its crippling effects.”

     In other words, transformative mediation focusses on the “people” as opposed to the “problem”.  Sound familiar?  It should.  This is also the focus of the New Ways for Families approach: a people centric, skills-based protocol for conflict resolution. The New Ways for Families method is transformative.

     A skills-based and transformative approach to family conflict resolution is not a luxury; it’s a necessity.  Why?  Because family dynamics, issues, circumstances, and ‘players’ evolve over time. For this reason, family litigation is often viewed as a moving target and, for some, it creates an avenue for a never-ending and destructive conflict cycle.  Similarly, settlement-directed mediation may only offer short-term solution to family conflict. New conflicts will inevitably arise and require new interventions for resolution. 

     The New Ways for Families method (“Skills Before Decisions”), however, offers to alter party dynamic and approach to conflict.  It is designed as a future-focused transformative model, which  seeks to change the course of conflict by empowering the disputants with new skillsets.  The skills they learn help them to positively address current conflicts and provide opportunity for preventing a future destructive conflict cycle.

     Parties in family conflict are not only seeking resolution.  They are not only seeking ‘peace’.  They are looking for empowerment and hoping it will free them from the crippling effects of their family conflict. Empowerment and freedom in the face of debilitating and polarizing conflict?  That is transformative.   

Reference: Robert A. Baruch Bush and Sally Ganong Pope, Changing the Quality of Conflict Interaction: The Principles and Practice of Transformative Mediation, 3 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L.J. Iss. 1 (2002)

___________________________________________________________________________

Jennifer Winestone is an attorney-mediator and principal of Winestone Mediation, a Los-Angeles based family mediation practice.  Jennifer believes in evolving conflict resolution processes and strives to be part of positive change to mainstream approaches in family legal conflict.  She is also a licensed provider of the New Ways for Families method. Read more about Jennifer Winestone at WinestoneMediation.com