Of course, we all say there is great learning in mediation, but how much learning do we as mediators actually engage in? Dr. Cheryl Picard, a mediator in Canada took this question – “what is it that I’m actually doing?” – quite seriously, and worked with a colleague, Dr Kenneth Melchin, to define a fresh approach to the practice of mediation.

By reflecting deeply and researching what she was doing, Cheryl found a different space among narrative, transformative and interest-based mediation models. Her model is called ‘Insight Mediation’. It is learning-centred and highly values the role of insights in conflict resolution, drawing from the work on cognition and insight of Canadian philosopher Bernard Lonergan.

There are two key ideas in Insight Mediation – ‘cares’ and ‘threats-to-cares’.

‘Cares’ are essentially things that matter to us and that we attend to deeply. We experience these as emotions that guide what we do and what we decide.

When we feel that these ‘cares’ are under attack, or are being threatened, we experience conflict – this is ‘threats-to-cares’.

The Insight Mediation model defines conflict as defensive responses to apprehensions of threat, and this is very different to other models such as positions-interests-needs. The core task of the insight mediator is to uncover the ‘threats-to-care’ of participants and then to find new less threatening actions, by shifting mindsets and creating the possibility for collection resolution. The focus is very definitely on learning and relational possibilities.

The value of self-reflection is undeniably fundamental to good mediation practice, even if we don’t all reflect on our work as much as Dr Picard did.

Plato said ‘an unexamined life is not worth living’.  Should we apply that to us as ‘an un-reflected mediation practice is not worth pursuing’?

Dr Cheryl Picard is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. Her article “The Origins, Principles and Practices of Insight Mediation” was published in Revista de Mediación in 2017.