Excellence: Using Reflective Debrief to
By Michael Lang and Susanne Terry
"Do you know why you do the things you do— the choices
you make? "
— Rick to Merle, "The Walking Dead"
As long-time mediators and mediation teachers, we are committed to an ongoing process of learning and improvement. To give effect to this commitment, we
practice the discipline and methods of Reflective Practice. This
enriches the quality of our mediation practices. A form of reflective
practice we call Reflective Debrief helps our students become more
effective mediators. In this article we describe and illustrate the
central concepts, methods and techniques of Reflective Practice
and Reflective Debrief— the foundation of our work.
We begin by asking you to consider the following situations:
• Sometimes your sessions generate unexpected but welcome
victories, while at other times the same approach yields little
if any progress.
• You mediate an intense family conflict and wonder later
whether your interventions may have been influenced by
experiences in your own family.
• After concluding an apparently successful mediation, you
realize that your clients could have found an outcome that
would have accomplished even more of their goals.
Is there a common thread in these situations? We believe it is the
desire to understand our experiences in the face of feeling surprised
or puzzled and to explain our victories or frustrations.
To reach an understanding, we are motivated to ask a basic yet
essential question: “As mediators, why do we do the things we do?”
Making sense of the choices we make allows us to learn from
our experiences and to elevate the quality of our practices.
Gaining insight into the factors that shape our decisions leads
us to choose interventions and strategies that are more likely
to match the parties' needs. This results in greater satisfaction
for them and a more professionally rewarding experience for
us as mediators.
Reflective Practice is a commitment to learning from experience–
an exploration of why we make the choices that we do. As part
of that exploration, Reflective Practice often starts with situations
where the usual rules and procedures of mediation are inadequate
ACRESOLUTION Spring 2013