Divorce and Family Mediation: Models, Techniques and Applications

By Southworth, Michele | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, October 2005 | Go to article overview

Divorce and Family Mediation: Models, Techniques and Applications


Southworth, Michele, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


Folberg, J., Milne, A., & Salem, P., (Eds.). (2004). Divorce and family mediation: Models, techniques and applications. New York: Guilford Press, 588 pp., $65.00

Divorce and family mediation is still a relatively new field in the process of developing and defining itself and its parameters. As a result, the available literature tends to be limited, and it can be difficult to find comprehensive sources of information. This exhaustive and authoritative text, which includes 23 chapters written by leading practitioners on a variety of aspects of theory and practice, offers a valuable window into the state of this emerging profession as it is coming into its own.

The editors, all respected authorities in the field, have a combined 50 plus years of experience as mediators, as well as various other professional roles including university teaching, law, social work and leadership positions in many of the various organizations which have supported the development of mediation as a profession. They have compiled here a densely written volume with chapters contributed by various founders, leaders and emerging stars of family and divorce mediation. They introduce this work with the goal of creating a collective definition of the practice of mediation as well as "provid[ing] a comprehensive review of . . . [the] field, and foreshadow[ing] the future" (Ibid.). It is an ambitious agenda, well realized, and it makes for satisfying and stimulating reading at a level of complexity adequate to sustain the interest of even a very seasoned mediator.

This book in its entirety is not geared towards the general practice marriage and family therapist who seeks a basic understanding of divorce and family mediation. It is a practitioner's manual for either the working mediator or for serious students of mediation who seek an in-depth understanding of the current state of the field. In fact, the book is specifically written to reach two audiences: those who are new to the field of mediation, to give them a comprehensive introduction, and for seasoned practitioners who would like a compilation of the work of the leading practitioners and theorists in the field. It is impressive that the book is able to meet these two relatively divergent goals. Some of the chapters are necessarily more descriptive of basic models and principles and are obviously geared to the student, while others address content and process issues at a more advanced level. The writing, thinking and analysis varies somewhat in level of sophistication and occasionally makes subtle assumptions about the reader's knowledge that would be better made explicit. For example, in addressing the issue of working with children in mediation, the risks to children of poorly managed disclosures of their input are touched on in such a way that the experienced practitioner will well understand the dangers; however, the less experienced student may not appreciate the extent of the risk of the child being placed in the middle, or how to manage that risk. …

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