Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Applying Family Systems Theory to Mediation: A Practitioner's Guide

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Applying Family Systems Theory to Mediation: A Practitioner's Guide

Article excerpt

Wayne F. Regina. Applying Family Systems Theory to Mediation: A Practitioner's Guide. Lanham, MD: University Press of America (2011). 172 pages, ISBN 9780761855743.

Wayne Regina's very informative book synthesizes the practice of family therapy and mediation to advance the work of family advocacy. The title of the book "Applying family systems theory to mediation: A practitioner's guide," may be a bit confusing since family systems theory as currently understood, is the broad philosophical framework of marriage and family therapy. However, when one browses through the index of contents, it becomes obvious that Regina is referring to the Bowen family system theory. Regina did a very scholarly yet pragmatic exposition of the Bowen family system and demonstrated how that can be applied to the 6-stage model of mediation practice. Both disciplines have different goals. While Bowen family system seeks to repair dysfunctional family systems, mediation services seek to arbitrate the already broken system in order to reach an amicable settlement between the parties concerned. In spite of this, Regina did a seamless job integrating the two disciplines. He suggested that though "the field of mediation clearly lacks a unifying theoretical foundation," the Bowen family system will provide a comprehensive theoretical foundation to fill up the theoretical vacuum. The Bowenian theory will deeply enhanced the use of the many techniques and skills of mediation such as caucusing, B ATNAs, WATNAs andB-SMART.

As Regina pointed out, the core concept of the Bowen family system is differentiation. Bowen seeks to develop both intrapersonal and interpersonal differentiation in members of the family system so that by reducing their anxiety, the family members may begin to relate more objectively and collaboratively. However that does not seem to be the focus of mediation, where the key players are the mediator or co-mediators who are expected to be differentiated and not be triangulated into the adversarial family system. Regina has not just integrated the Bowen family system and mediation services successfully but he also teaches his work to his colleagues and students in different contexts. I enjoy his presentations of the different mediation configurations and how the Bowen family system may be used to empower the stakeholders, such as co-mediators, the attorneys and the disputants, to level with each other. …

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