Accommodating Mediation Participants (cont'd from page 3)

A Key Point

A key point here is that, in order to make these types of accommodations, the mediator needs - prior to the mediation - to gather detailed information about what would help these particular individuals to participate fully in the mediation. Our willingness to make accommodations, combined with a creative approach, is often what is needed in assisting participants with mental health and addictions problems to benefit from mediation.

Areas of Accommodations

Accommodations may be made in many different areas. I find it very helpful to ask participants who disclose that they are being treated for a mental health and/or addictions problem whether they are currently using any medications with side effects which might affect their ability to participate in the mediation. Participants, for example, who suffer from depression and are being treated with medication may find that they tend to be drowsy in the morning; therefore, scheduling the mediation in the afternoon may assist them to participate more fully. I ask participants who self-identify with a diagnosis how they would like that information to be utilized in the mediation, particularly if it is relevant to the issues at hand. I find it important to review with these participants how confidentiality will be managed and, if their diagnosis is likely to be discussed during mediation, how they might want me to handle this. I also find it helpful to discuss some ground rules pertaining to how the problem will be dealt with during the mediation. For example, in the case of psychiatric conditions, I discuss what language will be used when referring to the condition, what kinds of information about the psychiatric condition will be open for discussion in the mediation and what kinds of information will be kept confidential.


Mediation with participants who are challenged by mental health and addictions problems is no doubt a challenge for the mediator. However, in my experience, it is extremely rewarding to see such participants become empowered during the process and have their voice heard at the table. I encourage all mediators to acquire knowledge and develop awareness of these issues. It is well worth your time and interest and ultimately will make you more effective as a mediator.

About the Author

Bob Finlay has a Master's Degree in Psychology and is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Registered Marriage and Family Therapist. In addition to his clinical work, he mediates in the areas of separation and divorce, child protection, extended family, family business and workplace contexts.