Books for Family Mediators

Whenever I first meet another family mediator, it is my habit to ask them: ‘Which book has most influenced you in your professional development, and how?’ Sometimes the answer is predictable – who hasn’t been influenced by Lisa Parkinson’s seminal ‘Family Mediation’? Others refer to a variety of books – not always part of the standard family mediation ‘skills and tools’ genre.

Those conversations have helped me to widen my reading and deepen my own knowledge and understanding of different aspects of our work.

I decided, therefore, that it would be good to share some of those recommendations more widely, as well as to invite other recommendations from mediation friends whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. This page gives a general idea of the sort of contribution that I am looking for – something that gives a personal view of a book, and highlights the way in which it has helped you to grow as a mediator.

To contribute to this resource, simply use the contact message facility on this website to give author, title (ISBN if you can locate it easily) and short recommendation, and I will be able to upload it. (I will be able to locate an image of the book).


Bringing Peace into the Room

Bringing Peace into the Room

by Daniel Bowling and David Hoffman (editors)

ISBN: 9780787968502

This excellent volume contains a number of contributions by leading members of the mediation profession under the general theme of 'How the personal qualities of the mediator impact the process of conflict resolution.'   It is a book about values rather than techniques.  When I first read it, I was struck by how some of my personal failings had probably reduced my effectiveness in the family mediation room.  If the first stage of life as a professional family mediator is to 'do family mediation' mastering techniques and skills, the second stage involves internalizing of the values that underpin the process in all its variations so a to 'be' a mediator rather than to 'do' mediation.  More 'why' than 'how'.   This volume has perhaps assisted me in this transition more than any other book that I have read.  It is now back on my list to re-read.

Recommended by Paul Kemp

Conflict Paradox, The

Conflict Paradox, The

by Bernard Mayer

ISBN: 9781118852910

Too often the challenges in our work as mediators are presented as ‘either/or’.  Bernard Mayer questions that assumption in this thought provoking contribution to the conflict intervention literature.  Whilst I particularly found his commentary on the paradoxical approaches of ‘neutrality or advocacy’ helpful, each of the seven dilemmas covered in this treatment has had a part to play in the development of key elements of my understanding of the needs of mediation participants.   I commend this volume particularly to moderately experienced mediators who are keen to build on their basic competences.  

Recommended by Paul Kemp (originally recommended to me by Michael Jacobs)

Family Mediation

Family Mediation

by Lisa Parkinson

ISBN: 9781784730253

This invaluable book is effectively family mediation's 'bible' and Its author, Lisa Parkinson, is one of the most respected and influential family mediators in the world.  Lisa's hallmark is a fresh and creative approach to family mediation, underpinned by an unwavering grasp of the principles that must always govern practice, together with enormous compassion for the families who come to mediators for help. Her text is highly readable, whether dealing with the challenges faced in the mediation room, or with the history and theory of family mediation in this country (to both of which she has made an outstanding contribution). As well as providing a clear and highly readable grounding in the theory for new mediators, this volume is a source of inspiration and support to experienced family mediators in their everyday work with clients. 

Lisa’s creative thinking, born of a very special combination of practical experience and intellectual curiosity, can help all of us to become better mediators.  This third edition offers fresh guidance on how to tailor the mediation process to the circumstances of individual clients, without ever compromising the principles of mediation. Lisa makes the point, in her preface, that a standardized model of family mediation “cannot possibly meet the diverse needs of couples and family members from different cultural backgrounds who come to mediation at different stages of separation or divorce or other family crisis, in widely varying circumstances”. It really is a wonderful source of new ideas. I strongly recommend this book.

Recommended by Philippa Johnson

Hay Player, The

Hay Player, The

by The Hay Festival

ISBN:

OK, so I am cheating; this isn't a book!

Yet, if you are among the incurably curious - and if you are a family mediator, that should include you - you are likely to find the Hay Player to be an invaluable resource, and at the remarkable price of only £10 a year.

The Hay Player gives you access to numerous talks and events from the World famous Hay Literary Festival.

Just two examples of talks that I have seen on the Hay Player:

Julia Samuel's and Cathy Rentzenbrink's dialogue: 'Talking about Death' in 2017 - a fascinating and mind provoking discussion about loss and grief, that has so many parallels in the work that family mediators undertake; and

Rowan Williams and Hannah Critchlow on 'Consciousness' in 2018 - deep but accessible discussion on themes that impact our work, touching upon questions such as autonomy and freedom of choice.

To sign up to the Hay Player, go to https://www.hayfestival.com/hayplayer/

Recommended by Paul Kemp

Making of a Mediator, The

Making of a Mediator, The

by Michael Lang and Alison Taylor

ISBN: 978-0-7879-4992-1

I came across this book at a time when I had completed my core training and gained accreditation but still felt “consciously incompetent” as a mediator.  This book helped me to make the link between theory and practice and the importance of reflection as a continuous process to become a more effective practitioner. The authors explain the development of the mediator through four stages- novice, apprentice, practitioner and the artist which I feel is a particularly helpful description of the journey to become a mediator. Attending a training course is only the beginning and developing as a mediator is a lifelong process.  It is an invaluable resource to both new and experienced mediators and for supervisors.  


Recommended by Lesley Soper

Manual for Heartache, A

Manual for Heartache, A

by Cathy Rentzenbrink

ISBN: 9781509824458

This is a temporary review written by Paul: Lisa Parkinson mentioned this slim volume to me during a discussion on empathy with those suffering heartache - which includes most family mediation participants.  I have asked Lisa to provide a review and it will replace this brief note when received.  Suffice it to say that I found the work profoundly encouraging on a personal level, and challenging on a professional one.  Most of us have faced situations that seem like having grenades, as the author describes them, thrown onto our path, and can benefit from the gentle wisdom that Cathy shares from her own experiences.  I encourage all family mediators to buy, enjoy and reflect upon this contribution to our understanding of the human condition.

Recommended by Lisa Parkinson

Nonviolent Communication - a Language of Life

Nonviolent Communication - a Language of Life

by Marshall B. Rosenberg

ISBN: 978-1-892005-03-8

This is a thoroughly American book but, for a very English lawyer who was trained in a justice approach to conflict, this book was my wake-up call.  It is practical and accessible, with many examples and exercises to bring to life the core teaching on nonviolent communication, and its potential impact on ourselves and those around us.  It has been a manual and guide over the years, and I find solace in it when those old lawyer instincts start to re-emerge.  Highly recommend it for all mediators, family or other.

Recommended by Helen Adam

Parenting Apart

Parenting Apart

by Christina McGhee

ISBN: 9780091939830

I recommend this volume to every parent who attends an initial meeting at my family mediation practice.  I would describe it as the ‘instruction manual’ for separated parents who desire to support one another in meeting their joint responsibility to meet their children’s needs.  I also expect that each of my supervisees makes him or herself familiar with the profoundly practical and anchored advice that Christina McGhee, an experienced child psychologist, offers.  I have found a number of her approaches helpful in day to day practice.  For example, her description of parents being ‘on-duty’ or ‘off-duty’ at any time encourages a discourse of cooperation rather than competition.  The volume does not, however, provide an in-depth analysis of recent controversies regarding the application of attachment theories (the volume is intended primarily for parents rather than professionals).    

Recommended by Paul Kemp

Science of Trust, The

Science of Trust, The

by John Gottman

ISBN: 9780393705959

Given that our work tends to focus on either the ending of relationships or a stage of significant transition in the nature of relationships, this book might at first sight seem misplaced on this page.

Professor Gottman, widely known ass a 'relationship guru' (a description that he disowns) takes a thoroughly scientific approach into the investigation of why some relationships fail and, therefore, how do couples become emotionally attuned so as to be able to enjoy a successful relationship.  In examining the factors that enable professionals to predict whether a relationship might fail, the author offers steps that might be taken to counteract those factors and establish a firm basis for a couples' future.

Many of those issues resonate with things that mediators see in the mediation room, and the insights offered by Professor Gottman are relevant to the mediator's task.  

This may not be the first book on your 'want to buy' list, and the reading is quite heavy going at times, but the determined reader will find much of interest and value in its pages - just don't allow the mathematics to overwhelm you.

Recommended by Paul Kemp

Family Mediation Council Family Mediators Association College of Mediators Resolution College of Mediators Family Law Panel Sorting Out Seperation