Should Oregon Mediation Association certify mediators?

The Oregon Mediation Association is considering a program to certify mediators.  Larry Coady, Convener of the OMA Standards and Practices Committee summarized the current ideas under consideration, and he requested feedback from members.  (Click on –  OMA Certification? – to view the article.)

What caught my eye was that the OMA would do nothing to certify competence.  It would merely set standards for education and experience and then certify that people met those standards if the applicant for certification SAID they met the OMA standard.   What follows is my feedback to the OMA.

Dear Larry,

Greetings, and thank you for your work on the OMA Standards & Practices Committee.  I write in response to your invitation to comment on the certification program.

The (rhetorical) question I have is whether the groundswell of support for mediator certification is coming from mediators who want a badge of legitimacy or from victims of “mediator malpractice.”  If the OMA will not adjudge the competency of the mediator, then will certification only serve as a restatement of a mediator’s own resume?  (“Jeff Merrick SAID he attended trainings and was involved in 20 mediations, therefore OMA declares that he did.”)

“Certification” may be the wrong word when the OMA will do no independent investigation of the qualifications submitted by a member.  (And does the OMA have insurance if an “OMA Certified” mediator brokers an unconscionable agreement and the victim sues the OMA?)  It sounds like you will employ an honor system for certification.  In effect, OMA will set standards, and people will self-certify with OMA’s stamp of approval.

Perhaps OMA should consider a different approach.  Perhaps OMA could set forth specific standards for different areas of practice.  Then mediators can say, for example:  “I meet the OMA standards for family law mediation.”

Restated, my thoughts are:

  • Does the public need certification? Or do mediators need certification for their marketing?
  • OMA should not “certify” mediators based on mediator’s own declarations absent some test of competency and some insurance to protect OMA, Inc. from lawsuits.
  • OMA could set standards.
  • If OMA establishes additional standards, then Mediators may declare to their potential clients that their experience and education meet OMA Standards.

Thanks, again, for your volunteer work on the committee, and best personal regards.