A Recipe for Family Mediation: Workers in the Research Kitchen

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2001


John Haynes, in The Fundamentals of Family Mediation (1993), described his model of family mediation in terms of a cookbook. Since then, practitioners have endeavoured to follow the recipes faithfully, but can we be certain they are all using the same ingredients? Although there is a great deal of practitioner-based and 'cookbook' literature about the mediation process (Coogler 1978; Haynes 1993; Parkinson 1997), relatively little is known about the actual process of mediation or, to extend Haynes's analogy, about what chefs are doing in their kitchens. It is not much of a mental stretch to understand that different chefs may have different ways of preparing the same dish depending on the ingredients they have available, whether they are using a gas or electric stove, and how big the kitchen is. So why has it been so difficult for mediation researchers and practitioners to understand that mediators from different backgrounds, who practice in different contexts, with a range of clients and cases, do not all practise the same brand of mediation? Joan Kelly (1996) points out that expense and complexity have limited the number of studies that deal with process, and that as a result we have minimal empirical understanding of what mediators do, how different interventions affect clients and outcomes, and whether mediator behaviours are influenced by different contexts. These are issues that I intend to address in research that I am carrying out at the Newcastle Centre for Family Studies. In this article, however, I will focus on the mediators' kitchen: what we empirically know about what actually happens in face-to-face interactions with clients. To understand this process it is essential to know the ingredients (the mediators and clients, and their characteristics and conflicts) and the preparation (what mediators do and why they do it). However, all the attention you might pay to detail in the kitchen is useless if the clientele do not enjoy the dishes or recommend you restaurant to their friends, so outcomes such as settlement rates and client satisfaction will inevitably remain the taste-test of effectiveness.

Journal Title

Family Mediation in Practice





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