That mediation is not therapy is well known, although both have aspects in common. In the following lines we will see exactly what are the similarities and differences between group psychotherapy and mediation , and the way in which these two disciplines help us to face daily problems.

The similarities between mediation and psychotherapy

In order to better understand the aspects that differentiate both disciplines, it is necessary to consider their common aspects. Thus, taking as a reference the treatment of the family conflict, there would be two levels of intervention: family therapy and family mediation . In each of them, the role of the professional (psychotherapist and mediator) is to facilitate communication. Each of these contexts develops its particular process of intervention.

At first sight, both when we intervene by doing family therapy and when we intervene by doing family mediation, we are working with part or all of the members of the family group, with whom a priori it seems that they also share the same objective: to favour the well-being of their members . Each of these interventions is carried out within a framework of confidentiality and uses a set of techniques and tools to achieve its objectives.

Adjusting a little more the look, the therapeutic approach (therapy or family psychotherapy), addresses two fundamental issues: the treatment of emotional disorders . It works with a natural primary group, the family, and in this area of intervention, the family is seen as an “all-system”. According to this, its aim would be to restore health and create a new way of conceptualising the relationship with the environment .

On the other hand, the media approach deals with the voluntary conflict management procedure , in which the parties request the intervention of a mediator, who must be professional, impartial, objective and neutral. He or she works with groups of people without the capacity to freely make decisions about how to relate to the rest of the group, and intervenes with all or some members of the family, depending on the type of conflict.

The differences

What aspects make the difference between therapy and mediation? Let’s see them.

1. Different objectives

The specific objective of the therapy is to improve health, promote psychological well-being and contribute to the improvement of relationships. Mediation seeks to improve communication , favouring the resolution of differences by generating solutions to them, and reaching an agreement between the parties in conflict. And at the same time, without being contemplated among its objectives, mediation has a “therapeutic effect”, from the moment in which the expression and emotional management is facilitated.

In the mediation process, the mediator intervenes by managing the emotions, so that they do not interfere with communication, thus promoting the search for alternatives and solutions that can lead to a consensual agreement by the parties in conflict. From the moment that in the mediation process we favour emotional relief , we are facilitating a “therapeutic effect” on people. But this is not the ultimate objective of this type of intervention.

On the other hand, mediation is a structured process, a priori focused on a task: find the solution to a series of aspects in dispute, agree on an agreement in the form of a written document. This document can reach a “legal character” or “quasi-legal”, settling and agreeing on legal and emotional agreements.

In mediation we work with people, with their relationship, with their problem . This leads us to consider a structure of open and fluid intervention, in which flexibility is the axis that sustains the process, thus facilitating the work on emotions and feelings, their aeration and identification, which will allow the definition of the problem and a more adequate understanding of the psychological conflict.

2. The information you work with

Another differentiating aspect between both interventions is the amount of information to be collected. In therapy, it is essential to collect information from previous and current data on the subject and/or the relationship (clinical or family history). In mediation, only information referring to the conflict is collected. The excess of information is considered to affect the impartiality and objectivity of the mediation professional.

3. The importance of impartiality

The role of the psychologist-mediator is based on carrying out his or her knowledge , achieving a balance between the parties in conflict , and for this, it is decisive that the parties perceive him or her as objective, neutral and impartial, conducting the mediation process, facilitating communication between them and favouring channels of communication.

The role of the psychologist-therapist is based on the analysis of behavior, offering guidelines and alternatives, seeking to restore health and psychological well-being. Normally you do not need to take so many precautions so as not to appear biased towards one of the “sides”.

Family mediation is an opportunity to face conflicts from and within the family, in which the parties voluntarily exercise the search for solutions to their conflict, resolving it through dialogue and communication; and assuming responsibility for resolving their differences by agreeing on an agreement that they undertake to comply with.

The task of mediation facilitates a helping relationship that encourages the expression of emotions and feelings . Furthermore, it helps to clarify the needs of the parties in conflict, helping them to distance themselves from the problem and focus on the solution. Mediation offers them the opportunity to experience and promote the healthy components of the relationship.

Mediating psychologists

The figure of the psychologist-mediator, is configured with a training that allows him/her to act in both areas , marking in each case the need to intervene in one context or another according to the need of the case.

Thus, it will manage the referral to therapy taking into account the interest of the parties or the objectives they are trying to achieve in the process. He will focus the “rules of the game” to be followed in the intervention, refraining from inducing any result not contemplated in the feeling or will of the parties.