BECOMING A VOLUNTEER
Being a volunteer mediator can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Every case brings a new set of problems that need solving, feelings that need calming, relationships that need repairing. Not every mediation ends in agreement. But those that do often leave us with a feeling of satisfaction that is uniquely rewarding and different from any other volunteer experience you may have had in the past.
Having said that, not everyone is cut out for being a volunteer mediator. Here is a list of qualities that good mediators tend to have:
1. A strong sense of empathy with the problems, situations, and feelings of others
2. The ability to stay neutral even when your heart clearly wants to side with one party or the other
3. A non-judgmental attitude, as free of stereotypes and generalities as possible
4. The ability to take yourself out of the equation. You may have had a similar problem as your clients in the past but your focus must always be on helping your clients reach their own conclusions and their own solutions
5. Punctuality. If you have a habit of being late or missing appointments, this is NOT the volunteer experience for you!
6. Disciplined and able to summarize issues and solutions clearly and succinctly. There are specific forms used by the courts that must be filed for each case. Since a signed agreement is the same as a legal contract, learning to write good agreements is an essential skill for a mediator.
7. A natural curiosity that makes you eager to continue learning how to get better as a mediator.
If you have some or all of these qualities plus a warm, approachable personality, you are ready to consider taking the basic 40-hour civil mediation course that is offered locally every other year and is also available around the state at other State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) supported mediation centers.
Learning to be a Mediator
Mediation offers many opportunities for community service, as well as career development. To plan your training activity, you should decide if you are looking for a career change or a volunteer opportunity.
All mediation — volunteer or professional — requires structured, approved training. You might choose one of many paths to mediation training, depending on your goals:
If you want to become a volunteer mediator, you’ll need to complete a mediation training course (either general civil or domestic) and a hands-on internship. General civil mediation training is offered by Community Mediation Services, as well as many of the other centers throughout Michigan.
If you want to be a court-approved mediator, you must complete either general civil mediation training or domestic mediation training, depending on the types of cases you wish to mediate. You can learn about the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) requirements via the Michigan state website. You can also find a list of general civil and domestic mediation training classes through the Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE). If you want to become a professional mediator, we suggest you explore career opportunities through an organization such as the Mediation Training and Consultation Institute.
Volunteering as a Mediator
All volunteer mediators for Community Mediation Services are required to take a mediation training course. Based upon your interests, you may choose general civil mediation or domestic mediation training. These courses are offered at Community Mediation Services, as well as many of the other centers across Michigan.
After you have successfully completed mediation training, you may submit an application to be a volunteer mediator. At that point, you will participate in actual mediations as part of a hands-on internship. After you have successfully completed both the course and internship, you will be eligible to mediate cases for our organization.
Community Mediation Services typically offers a general civil mediation training course every other year, rotating with the domestic mediation training. Please contact us if you’d like to be added to the waiting list for the next available class. The general civil mediation training is a 40 hour course and the domestic mediation training is 48 hour course.
If you would like to specialize in specific areas of advanced mediation, Community Mediation Services also offers courses in topics such as agricultural mediation, special education mediation, restorative practices, and more. Contactus to learn more about these advanced classes.
To remain active on our volunteer roster, we ask that you mediate a minimum of two cases per year.
All of our volunteers are also invited to attend free mediation workshops, which are usually offered quarterly. These sessions can enhance your skills and help you network with other mediators.
For information about mediation training opportunities throughout Michigan, visit the SCAO website.