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This week, Lisa Emms Wice and I, have been training students at The Mediation Centre in Barrie. Twice a year, The Meditation Centre offers courses that are required to be taken to become an accredited family mediator.
There are 4 courses in total, which we offer over 4 months. One course will differ, depending whether the student is a lawyer or not. The courses aren't for the faint of heart! For non-lawyers, the series begins with an intense family law course. That is followed with a 40 hour introductory course, a 3 day domestic violence course and finally a 3 day advanced mediation course. Those that do not have social work education background will also require a family relations course. In each course, students learn to think differently, to communicate differently and to be "hyper-aware" of what others are communicating (verbally and through body-language).
The students also need to understand screening, and that safety is of vital importance. We teach them tools to use in mediations, to improve the communication of others, in order to deal with conflict in a useful way. We also teach them about what the clients and their children are going through. As someone not keen on role playing, I feel for the students, working with all of this material, way outside of their comfort zone. Last night, Lisa and I were reflecting on our students; invariably they are shocked, saddened and overwhelmed by our real-life stories. There is a realization that the skills they require to be effective mediators are vast. To that end, following the training, they will each be required to intern, in order to become an accredited family mediator. For governing bodies OAFM and FDRIO, this requires 100 hours of working with one or more accredited family mediators and completing 5 mediation reports. They then need to be insured. It sounds onerous, but so it should be. These families are often in crisis and they are putting their trust in a mediator.
Our mantra is "do no harm" and we want to do so much more than that - we hope to effect positive change going forward. My advice to anyone seeking the services of a family mediator is to ensure the person is accredited. Taking the courses is a great start, but it's not enough - the internship is crucial. What you are going through is difficult. Your future is important.