OMA Secretary Linda Norris writes the following:
IS MEDIATION A PROFESSION?
A few members who object to voluntary mediator credentialing cite their belief that mediation is not a profession as one of their reasons. Hopefully, this is only a small fraction of our membership who feels this way, but we feel it still needs to be addressed as an issue to be addressed with regard to mediator credentialing.
One main reason for credentialing in the first place is to elevate the role of mediation in the public eye. OMA promotes the use of mediation and the professional practice of mediation. One of our goals is to increase the use of mediation throughout Ohio.
To this end, it is important for mediators to be viewed as the professionals that they aspire to be. There are hundreds of practitioners in Ohio who promote themselves as professional mediators, and we want to be able to help them substantiate their claims through credentialing. Credentialing is only one step but the Board feels an important one to allow mediators to demonstrate their training, education and experience that add up to the professional practice of mediation.
The public needs to have confidence that the mediator they choose has standing in the profession, is everything he/she claims to be, and is a professional in every sense of the word. As Robert Benjamin puts it, “The real test of the acceptance of professional mediation in our society will be the sustained and regular use of those services by a substantial number of people to manage conflicts that arise in their personal and business lives in the private market.” For this to happen, mediation has to be viewed as a profession with a code of ethics, standards of practice, accepted levels of training and education and a minimum number of mediation cases or hours under their belt
For mediation to be taken seriously as an alternative to settling disputes, there has to be a paradigm shift in our culture. What? A paradigm shift? Isn’t that sort of like moving a mountain? Yes, it is. And no one can do it alone. There has to be a strategic, calculated, frontal assault to conventional thinking much like the anti-drunk driving campaign wave that swept the country decades ago. This is, presumably, one reason why we have the Ohio Mediation Association: to pull together in a united front to help popularize mediation and to increase mediation opportunities for conflict resolvers. An important component of changing the public’s view of mediation is that of promoting mediation as a profession and vouching for the credibility, veracity, and reliability of individual mediators as professionals.
So, what do others define as a profession? Simply put, according to according to the Merriam Webster dictionary a profession is “a type of job that requires special education, training, or skill.” Bingo! We believe mediation meets these criteria. Other definitions abound. Here are a few that definitely support our assumption that mediation is, indeed, a profession:
Someone that wants to be part of society, who becomes competent in their chosen sector through training; maintains their skills through continuing professional development (CPD); and commits to behaving ethically, to protect the interests of the public.” (totalprofessions.com/more-about-professions/what-is-a-profession)
An “occupation that requires extensive education or a calling that requires special knowledge, skill, and preparation. (com/essays/criteria-of-a-profession-533795.html)
A “professional [who is] expected to maintain a high knowledge level and expertise; and[Who] is committed to continued training and development, driven by a code of ethics. Their integrity ensures that they adhere strongly to a set of values about how they do their work. (The Seven Characteristics of a Professional, Dianne Walker)
OMA wants all those who practice mediation to aspire to be professional mediators who have training, experience, education, a code of ethics and so on. Credentialing will set these apart from many who purport to be mediators with only a bare minimum of training, experience, or specialized education about dispute resolution. We hope that when the public turns to a mediator for help resolving a conflict, they can, with confidence, at least choose someone who has the basics of what we feel are professional standards required for the professional practice of mediation.
Many who hold licenses in other fields do not feel they need the extra credibility that credentialing provides for a mediator. Yet, many mediators feel that those licenses do not qualify them as a mediator and too often promote themselves as a mediator when they have only a bare minimum of training, DR education or experience. In a sense, credentialing could change the playing field to make it more equal and uniform between licensed specialists and mediators. Also, it will give those with specialized licenses additional credibility to demonstrate that they, too, have invested in developing mediation skills, acquiring DR training and obtaining mediation experience.
Finally, in setting up a credentialing program to help promote the professional practice of mediation, OMA is acting responsibly to help protect consumers by providing a minimum level of regulation of the profession by requiring background checks, proof of education, training, and experience; and a consumer complaint process and consequences for fraud or professional misconduct. In all, OMA is hoping to provide a comprehensive program that clearly endorses mediation as a profession provided the mediator meets established criteria for the professional practice of mediation as defined by our guidelines.