For those looking to begin a career in dispute resolution or hoping to become a professional mediator, the first step is often looking at the options to earn a mediator certification online. Mediation certification is not regulated by most states, so it can often be difficult to determine what mediation certification is the correct one for a person, yet most budding mediators know that a mediation certificate is often the key to being listed on the court roster and any mediation course will benefit professionals.
However, many mediators may have difficulty accessing a training program, especially if they are required to attend classes in person. Because of this, many people will turn to an online mediation training program to complete their certification. This article will outline what is necessary to become a certified mediator online and break into the mediation field.
Online Mediation Training
Most states will require that a mediator complete a 40-hour mediation training before they can move forward in applying to be on a court roster. Online courses are a great way to access mediation training without having to commit to a commute or spending an entire weekend or more in a stuffy classroom. Many professional organizations will provide their own mediation training program, including ADR Times.
Mediation courses teach you new skills and help you develop a deeper understanding of dispute resolution. Several areas of interest will be covered.
Conflict Resolution Theory
Near the beginning of the learning experience, the students will discover conflict resolution theory. This section of the course will introduce concepts such as why conflicts exist, and the impact of interests on the disputes. and conflict styles. Through this education, students will develop a greater ability to identify and address conflicts within mediation.
The Mediation Process
Students will also get training in the mediation process. This process ensures that the students can guide the participants and their attorneys through the negotiation and introduction elements and toward an agreement. The process begins at the initial contact between the parties or the attorneys and the mediator. On the day of the mediation, the mediator will introduce everyone and the process to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Next, they will encourage the parties to negotiate with each other and attempt to work through the dispute. If the parties resolve the issue, then they will sign an agreement to enforce the resolution. Understanding this process will help the mediator find where to plug in the new skills that they learn during the 40-hour mediation training.
Dispute management will take much of the knowledge that the participants learned in the theory section and begin to develop skills to manage the varying styles and approaches to conflicts. These techniques can include identifying interests that are driving the negotiation, learning the relevant ways to manage conflicts in different settings, and how to create value to help guide the parties toward resolution. The training program will likely focus heavily on this section, as much of being a mediator is learning how to manage dispute resolution.
Mediator education will also develop communication skills in the participants. The course will likely include a section of instruction on how to practice effective communication to help understand the wants of the parties and the needs of each side. It will also help teach the mediators how to help the parties use communication effectively to resolve disputes.
Some common skills include active listening, which encourages the parties and the mediator to work on listening to the person talking instead of planning what to say next. Active listening also encourages open-ended questions that aim to get to the root of the issues when the parties are stuck. Students will learn how to use and encourage these skills to bring the mediation to a resolution.
Students will also need to learn techniques to deal with ethical issues that may arise. The law of each state will likely dictate the ethics that the mediator will need to follow, but there are general rules that a student may learn in a course. Understanding how to approach a potential issue with clients and refraining from advising the parties or their attorneys will help professionals create an ethical code that follows the law. Ethics are incredibly important to any business or mediation practice, but they can be difficult to understand without a full training program in them.
The other portion of an online mediation training program is mediation practice. This is the part of the course where the parties will role-play different scenarios and practice their mediation skills. Mediators hone their skills through repetition, and safe scenarios with other students will allow them to work on various areas and aspects of the mediation process without the pressure of a client needing their assistance.
After completion of the 40-hour course, mediators will also be encouraged by the institution that ran the course to practice mediation with a professional mediator. This allows them to progress from observing mediations to mediating with another person to mediating with the failsafe of a second person in case they are needed. By progressively increasing the amount that a new mediator does, they begin to learn more about mediation practice than any 40-hour mediation course will.
Joining an Association
After they complete a course and practice mediation with professionals, many mediators will join a mediation association or organization to gain a network of professionals for both business and support. An association may require you to pay a fee to join, but most will also be able to send business, which often pays for the fee, and the network you have access to is unmatched. There will likely be an association that you can join that is connected to the course or training program where you earned your certificate.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Mediation Courses
There are advantages and disadvantages to doing a mediation training program online. It will often make earning a certificate more accessible and can be a smart business decision for a new mediator. Choosing the right course for your needs is crucial to beginning your practice. Other advantages include the ability to work through the course materials at your own pace and continuous access to the course materials when the program is complete. This allows you to review techniques when you would like to improve your skills.
Disadvantages include a lack of access to financial aid to help pay tuition. An online mediation training program can be expensive to pay out-of-pocket, so the cost may be more prohibitive for some than attending a local college for a class where they may have access to financial aid. Additionally, if you are interested in specializing in a specific area of law, such as divorce or workplace mediation, you may need to complete an additional course. Finally, some online programs may have limited access to group exercises, which can seriously impede mediation practice.
It is also important to note that these courses only cover mediation at a surface level, and do not include other areas of dispute resolution, such as arbitration. Those interested in becoming an arbitrator will likely need additional experience in the area of law they would like to practice arbitration in and will need to complete training in an arbitration-specific program.
Whether you are interested in mediation in New Mexico, Minnesota, New York, or Washington, taking an online course in mediation practice can be the perfect first step in finding your footing and beginning your career. If you are looking for a course to start, please see the mediation course offered on our site.
Learn more about online mediation certification, and all things mediation-related by contacting ADR Times!