What is Mediation?

Posted May 2020


Mediation is a facilitated and structured process that helps people to communicate with each other and reach agreement about issues relating to their conflict. The participants or parties have the opportunity to express their point of view and issues of concern.  Mediation concentrates on future focused problem solving and resolving specific issues and disputes. Mediation is not counselling.

The Mediation process provides a forum where the parties participate by:

  • Listening to each other’s point of view
  • Identifying issues needing to be resolved
  • Sharing relevant information
  • Developing workable solutions and agreements.
  • Note: decisions made during mediation are not legally binding.

Role of Mediator

The Mediator is a neutral third party and impartial; they do not take sides, act as an agent nor support person for parties. The mediator’s role is to facilitate the:

  • Meaningful participation of parties
  • Exploration of ideas and options
  • Testing of possible solutions
  • Development of durable and sustainable decisions and agreements in writing.

The Mediator manages the process, providing a uniquely tailored bespoke service whilst parties contribute the content (issues in dispute), participating voluntarily and in good faith.

All cases need to be assessed for appropriateness and safety i.e. suitability. This assessment is ongoing.

The Mediation Process

1. Intake and assessment

The Mediation process begins when one or both parties in dispute contact Shifting Sands. Where one party has initiated Mediation, Shifting Sands contacts and invites the second party (and/or additional parties), to participate in Mediation.

Initially the Mediator will meet separately with the parties for an intake appointment. This appointment is the opportunity for parties to explain their perspective and concerns to the Mediator, receive an explanation of the Mediation process, and ask questions. This appointment is an opportunity for the Mediator to meet parties, build rapport, ensure that each person has the capacity to negotiate, and that all parties feel safe and are safe to participate in Mediation i.e. Mediation is suitable.

2. Decision to proceed

Following the individual intake appointments, the Mediator will decide whether Mediation is suitable at that time. If the Mediator decides to proceed with Mediation, then they (the Mediator), consider what Mediation process to offer that maximises active and meaningful participation (this is an ongoing active consideration). The Mediator will then explain the process being offered. Process decisions may include:

  • Joint mediation session (the Mediator and parties mediating in room together).
  • Shuttle formats i.e. the Mediator speaking to each person separately in turn, assisting in the exchange of ideas and proposals.
  • Telephone Mediation service (to one or multiples parties).
  • Interpreter.
  • Support persons i.e. a person in a non-decision-making role, who is present at the request of a party, and with the approval of the Mediator. The purpose of their attendance is usually to assist one of the parties to feel safe, and/or to otherwise negotiate freely in the Mediation process by providing emotional, psychological support and clarifying/articulating support. Using a support person needs to be contracted with the Mediator.
  • There are times where the Mediator may decide to not offer nor continue to offer, a Mediation service.

3. Outcomes

The outcomes of Mediation can include the following:

  • Providing a forum to clarify parties’ views and interests.
  • Agreements, including an ‘in principle’ or moral agreement as decided by parties. Whilst not legally binding, this agreement relies on the good will of the parties to adhere to it.
  • No agreement – sometimes parties do not agree on all issues, or even any issues.