The Humanistic Mediation Model (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on: April 17th, 2023

Mediators come from a number of different backgrounds and experiences: legal practitioners, HR professionals, coaches, and more. My own background is as a psychotherapist and a trainer of psychotherapists, and I started UK Mediation in 1999 as a way to bring some of my ideas and experiences into the mediation and conflict resolution field.

By UK Mediation CEO and Founder, Dr Mike Talbot

Us psychotherapists work with a number of different ‘orientations’, as we call it. You may have heard of the person-centred approach, existential psychotherapy, or gestalt: these are all examples of the humanistic approach to psychotherapy or counselling.

People who work with this kind of an orientation would generally share certain characteristics in their work:

Some years ago, moving from psychotherapy into mediation, I took on the challenge of trying to bring this kind of ethos into mediation, specifically into interpersonal mediation. What this meant was essentially going from being a humanistic therapist (gestalt, in my case) to being a humanistic mediator. The humanistic mediator carries the above ideas into a mediation process in which parties are trusted to arrive at their own solutions and will inherently be inclined to improve their dialogue and relationship with the other person if the mediator skilfully sets up the right conditions for this to happen.  

I go into specifics a little more in part 2 (coming soon), but here I would just like to illuminate this kind of approach by making a contrast with the more settlement-focussed and technique driven approach. This latter approach, much preferred by legal practitioners and ‘civil’ mediators, tends to be used in a problem-solving way in commercial disputes  where an agreement is needed about an amount of money and/or an exchange of something of material value.

What happens in this approach is:

So, the two approaches are quite different, and of course the humanistic approach does not suit all varieties of disputes and neither does it sit well with all practitioners. In the second part of this piece, I will expand on this point, as well as saying more about what working in a humanistic manner actually means in practice.