The Psychology of the Mediator

By Fazzi, Cindy | Dispute Resolution Journal, February-April 2006 | Go to article overview

The Psychology of the Mediator


Fazzi, Cindy, Dispute Resolution Journal


The Psychology of the Mediator The Mediator as Human Being. By Henry A. Chan. Lima, Ohio: Wyndham Hall Press (www.wyndhamhallpress.com), 2005. Softcover. $28. 116 pages.

Henry Chan's book brings a breath of fresh air to a market suffocating with books about how to be a professional mediator. Chan's goal for this book is to serve as a "bridge" between mediation and psychology, sociology, and related fields, which should help mediators look at themselves in a fundamental way. A clergyman and mediator, Chan hopes to introduce the book to psychotherapists and pastoral counselors.

"When I first started mediating," writes Chan, "my primary focus was on the process of mediation. As I became more and more comfortable with the process, I began to reflect on who I am as a person, a human being, during mediation."

The book begins with a discussion of four different mediator approaches called facilitative, transformative, evaluative, and restorative justice mediation. Then it explores the contributions of four leading thinkers in psychoanalysis (Freud, Jung, Erikson and Maslow) and how their major concepts apply to mediators.

Freudian Concepts

First examined is Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), an Austrian neurologist, who divided the total human personality into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. According to Freud, the id translates a person's needs (such as for pleasure) into instincts and drives; the ego represents reason and common sense; and the superego constitutes the conscience and feelings of shame, pride, and guilt. Using these concepts, Chan says, "If a mediator's task is to bring health into an unhealthy situation between two disputants, then it follows that a mediator must be a mentally healthy person. Therefore, the three major systems of the total personality of a mediator ... must form a unified and harmonious organization." He adds that the more aware a mediator is about how the superego operates, the more effective he or she will become. Furthermore, he says that the mediator's id (the part of the personality that seeks pleasure ) must be satisfied in order to maintain a passion for the work.

There will be times when the three systems of the personality will be out of sync. This may occur during times of trouble at home or with relationships. …

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