This are excerpts from a lengthy article that can beaccessed from the link below.

A quarter century ago, Professor Leonard Riskin published an article describing a grid of mediator orientiations including a facilitative-evaluative dimension. Despite critiques of this framework, including by Riskin himself, many mediators, trainers, and teachers still use these concepts as mediation models, expressing strong feelings that one model is good and the other is bad.

These models are very misleading because they are based on false assumptions, and they provide counterproductive concepts to guide mediators’ behaviors and set parties’ expectations. This post outlines a unified conceptual framework using clearer, practical concepts and omitting the problematic assumptions. It is an outline that can be elaborated and refined.


Toward a Unified Conceptual Framework
Mediators should tailor their interventions to the circumstances in each case and pay close attention to the effects of their interventions. The ABA Section of Dispute Resolution’s Task Force on Research on Mediation Techniques did an extensive review of empirical studies, which found that the overall body of evidence shows that there is no consistent effect of particular interventions. The actual effects of interventions in particular situations depend on many different factors.

Instead of relying on misleading and counterproductive facilitative-evaluative theory, mediators should select from a menu of specific unbundled interventions in response to the situation at particular moments in a mediation to help parties to identify their goals and interests, overcome settlement barriers, and make decisions. These interventions might include the following, though mediators could add or modify concepts on this list:
  • Asking questions and listening
  • Helping parties assess intangible interests, issues, possible court outcomes, tangible litigation costs, and options
  • Referring clients to talk with lawyers, experts, associates, or others
  • Providing information and resources
  • Assessing intangible interests, issues, possible court outcomes, tangible litigation costs, and options
  • Coaching and giving advice
  • Making suggestions or proposals
  • Predicting court outcomes and effects on parties’ interests
  • Applying pressure

The appropriateness of mediators’ interventions depends on factors such as:
  • What help parties ask for
  • Parties’ decision-making competence
  • Whether some or all parties are represented by lawyers
  • Relative power of parties
  • Timing, amount, quality, and confidence of mediators’ statements
  • Cultural practice norms in relevant practice communities

Many mediators undoubtedly use such an eclectic approach, which they would simply call “mediation” without any philosophical qualifier. Of course, mediators should use only interventions consistent with their personal practice philosophies.


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Mediators should focus on the potential and actual effects of particular interventions at particular moments in their cases. Mediation theorists and practitioners should be cautious about making generalizations that may embody false assumptions. Rather than relying on general theories or models, mediators should consider whether particular interventions are likely to advance the process and observe whether they do so in particular situations.

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