Transformative Mediation

The Paula Stephenson Group has adopted the transformative mediation approach for alternative dispute resolution services and activities.

Transformative mediation describes a unique approach to conflict intervention that was first articulated by Robert A. Baruch Bush and Joseph P. Folger in 1994 in The Promise of Mediation. It has been the subject of much study, research, and development ever since.

 The transformative approach to mediation practice takes an essentially social/communicative view of human conflict. According to this model, a conflict represents first and foremost a crisis in some human interaction—an interactional crisis with a somewhat common and predictable character. Specifically, the occurrence of conflict tends to destabilize the parties’ experience of both self and other, so that the parties interact in ways that are both more vulnerable and more self-absorbed than they did before the conflict. Further, these negative dynamics often feed into each other on all sides as the parties interact, in a vicious circle that intensifies each party’s sense of weakness and self-absorption. As a result, the interaction between the parties quickly degenerates and assumes a mutually destructive, alienating, and dehumanizing character.

For most people, according to transformative theory, being caught in this kind of destructive interaction is the most significant negative impact of conflict. However, the transformative model posits that, despite conflict’s potentially destructive impacts on interaction, people have the capacity to change the quality of their interactions to reflect relative personal strength or self-confidence (the empowerment shift) and relative openness or responsiveness to the other (the recognition shift).

Moreover, as these positive dynamics feed into each other, the interaction can regenerate and assume a constructive, connecting, and humanizing character. The model assumes that the transformation of the interaction itself is what matters most to parties in conflict – even more than settlement on favorable terms. Therefore, the theory defines the mediator’s goal as helping the parties to identify opportunities for empowerment and recognition shifts as they arise in the parties’ conversation, to choose whether and how to act upon these opportunities, and thus to change their interaction from destructive to constructive.

Conflict Mediation

Third party conflict mediation of the conflict opens avenues for communication between group members in conflict. It allows members to express their opinions and request clarification of other part’s standpoints while the mediator acts as a form of protection against any shame or “loss of face” that either disputant may experience. This can be done by shedding a positive light on the reconciliation that was made during the mediation process.

The mediator can also help in refining solutions and making counteroffers between parties, adjusting the time and location of meetings so that they are mutually satisfying for both parties. There are three major mediation approaches, inquisitorial, arbitration, and moot. The Paula Stephenson Group adheres to the moot approach to conflict management. The moot approach involves an open discussion between disputants and the mediator about the problems and potential solutions. In the moot approach, the mediator cannot impose a mandatory solution.

After arbitration, a moot approach is the most preferred mediation style. In practice, conflict resolution is often interwoven with daily activities, as in organizations, workplaces, and institutions. Staff and residents in a youth care setting, for instance, interweave everyday concerns with interpersonal disputes.