Mediation a Natural for Social Workers
Focus Is on Empowerment, Conflict Resolution
Social workers must stay neutral rather than falling into a
By Lyn Stoesen, News Staff
|Illustration: John Michael
Conflict is at the root of many areas of social work practice.
School social workers deal with clashing students; policy professionals
negotiate political disagreements; hospital social workers balance
patient needs; clinical practitioners address internal battles.
In many ways, therefore, social workers are ideally suited to
mediation practice. While the growing field is attracting people
from many professions, the social work perspective gives mediators
the advantage of the field's commitments to self-determination
and conflict resolution.
The mediation process. Florida social worker and mediation
trainer Tina Jaeckle explained that mediation is a part of the
broader field of conflict resolution: "Conflict resolution
is a huge, global arena — it can cover anything from international
affairs to arbitration to peace keeping. . . . Mediation itself
is a process in which a [trained] mediator goes in as a neutral
third party and works with those who have a dispute or conflict."
Mediation can be used in a range of areas, including custody
and divorce disputes, child welfare negotiations, the care of
the elderly, school-based conflicts, discrimination complaints,
nonviolent crimes or civil offenses, health care negotiations,
public policy debates and even business-related conflicts. In
recent years, many jurisdictions have begun to incorporate mandated
mediation into their legal systems, which can help clear court
dockets and allow disputing parties to develop their own resolution.
"Mediation is a neutral process," Jaeckle explained.
"Whatever the outcome, they decide. My role is to ask the
questions — 'Have you thought about this? What does that look
like for the future?' I help people think through a lot of imagery."
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From September 2006 NASW News. © 2006 National
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