After members posed questions about OMA’s Mediator Credentialing Process at the 2017 Annual Conference, we held a phone conference open to all members on June 2nd. We had a thoughtful discussion of the process that included a number of proposed changes. A summary of some of the key points from this phone conference are detailed below:
June 2nd Phone Conference
One member raised the issue of ACR’s Model Standards for Mediator Certification Programs.
For example, Standard 17 recommends no educational requirement (because education levels have not been empirically correlated to mediator skill levels).
Proposal: Remove Education requirements from the Proposal
Also, ACR’s Model Standards recommend a performance-based component. The counter-argument was raised that performance-based assessments of individual mediators, by way of observation and evaluation of actual mediation sessions, is burdensome to manage and increases subjectivity. We should not promote one style of mediation above others and should limit the effect of personal preferences in the credentialing process.
A criticism was raised that the credentialing proposal is not entirely objective. The example was raised about the last two questions on the open-book test (concerning issues and interests rather than the Model Standards of Mediator Conduct). A counter-argument was raised that the proposal strives for objectivity, and that the goal of objectivity (strict standards) is balanced with flexibility (which allows for some degree of subjectivity). The drafters admitted that the issues and interests questions could be better written.
Though the issues and interests questions were a source of criticism, critics supported some kind of test for mediators to demonstrate their ability to identify interests, frame issues, and ask questions. It was then suggested that this test could fulfill the ACR Model’s requirement for a performance-based component. It would be separate from the open-book test on the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators (which only motivates applicants to read and digest the Model Standards).
Proposal: Have a separate “issues and interests” test as a replacement for performance-based component.
Another member raised the issue of ambiguity, specifically about the amount of professional contribution Advanced Mediation Practitioners would be required to complete under Section VI.(E). The drafters clarified that the required number of completed activities is “one” (i.e., Advanced Practitioners would be required to write one article/blog post, conduct one training, mentor one other mediator, volunteer at one ADR activity, or speak publicly about mediation at one event).
One member in a court-connected mediation program expressed the opinions of the mediators in that program, who asked, “Why should we have to do this?” The drafters clarified that this is a voluntary credentialing program, not designed for mediators who already have a stable source of income and cases. The intended beneficiaries are private practice mediators who compete for cases with mediators who have inadequate training in mediation.
The issue of licensure was raised by one member, asking why OMA would do this if the government could license mediation. Another member responded that the issue of licensure was considered by higher ups in the government, but these higher ups ended up saying, “Where is the damage of bad mediation? We will not license if there is no damage.” Government licensure of mediation does not appear to be imminent.
Some members were fearful that this process would drive members away. OMA leadership indicated that it would work on the proposal until it had broader support from the membership.
Some members indicated that OMA is not in the position to sustainably execute this proposal. Others thought it could be accomplished with little downside. Others saw the potential benefit to the mediation profession but did not think that the logistics of the current proposal were fleshed out enough. Eventually, everyone seemed to agree that we would be more comfortable if we knew more about the costs and logistics of this proposal.
Proposal: The Credentialing Committee and OMA Board will look into the specific costs of insurance and hiring people to review the applications. We can also put an example application together, see how difficult that process is, and see how long it takes a qualified person working for $20/hour to review the application.
Many OMA members remain mistrustful of the intentions of this Mediator Credentialing Proposal. We reiterate that this is a voluntary process it is not mean to exclude anyone from practicing mediation. While court employees and established mediators may decide to not participate in credentialing, many of our independent, private practice mediators may benefit from this process. Rather than excluding anyone from practicing mediation, this proposal is intended to better inform the market so that people seeking mediation services can more easily differentiate between trained and untrained mediators.
Also, legitimate concerns were raised about the uncertain costs and income of this project. Supporters believe that applications could be reviewed at a cost that is significantly below the $100-$150 application fee. However, many members wanted more concrete numbers. The Credentialing Committee will therefore take steps to gauge the amount of effort that it takes to fill out the credentialing application, the amount of time that it takes a paid intern or private practice mediator to review applications, the cost of insurance, and the number of expected applicants.
In the meantime, we invite further comments about the credentialing proposal. We will gather and respond to common concerns in an upcoming blog post. Stay posted.