Book Review by Dan Simon
Tara West has studied all of the approaches to mediation. Her experience with five of them has led to the best available resource for anyone who wants to compare approaches. And it’s a pleasure to read. It’s called The Mediator’s Approach: Five (and a Half) Paths Through Conflict. She describes evaluative, facilitative, transformative, understanding-based, and narrative mediation. The extra “half” in the title refers to West’s observation that the evaluative approach is inconsistently defined, and has at least two different meanings.
Part of what makes this book especially notable is how it describes transformative mediation. Accurately. Speaking of which, I should disclose that West is a close friend of mine, took my transformative mediation training, and just finished co-authoring another book, with me. And she understands the transformative approach.
Among the insightful statements she makes about the transformative approach are “Of [evaluative, facilitative and transformative], only the transformative approach is a mediation model, meaning there is a foundational text that clearly spells out the theory, goals, values, and practices of the approach.” And West goes on to articulate those theory, goals, values and practices in an entire chapter devoted to the transformative approach. She devotes a chapter to each of the other four approaches, as well.
The book conveys West’s love for mediation and encourages readers to find their own path to the approach they prefer. While West prefers to practice transformative mediation, her descriptions of the other approaches are fair, clear and accurate, as well. Anyone who wants a broad understanding of the different approaches to mediation will enjoy this book.