Accommodating Mediation Participants with Mental Health and Addiction Issues

The Society’s best practice teleconference of October 2006 saw board member, Bob Finlay, bring his expertise to a discussion about mediating with participants who have mental health and addiction issues. In the following article, Bob delves into the topic further, focusing on how mediators can accommodate participants with these problems:

"On The Line" with Bob Finlay

Consider the following scenarios: A mediation participant discloses during a private pre-mediation session that they believe that their child protection social worker has set up cameras in their apartment to watch them. During a mediation, a participant appears to be having difficulty following the conversation and often asks for information to be repeated. A participant shows up at a mediation, smelling of alcohol. An hour into a mediation, the mediator notices that one of the participants has fallen asleep. A participant discloses during a private pre-mediation session that they are unsure if they can make it through the mediation because of their feelings of anxiety.

Bob FinlayThese are only some of the situations that mediation participants with mental health and addiction problems may present to the mediator. Although they do not necessarily indicate such problems, as there may be other explanations for the behavior, they are examples of situations where the capacity of the participants to participate in mediation may well be compromised because of mental health and addictions problems. By capacity, I mean the ability of the participants to follow the conversation, articulate their opinions clearly, concentrate on and understand the issues at hand, understand clearly what is being agreed to and be able to follow through on their obligations and responsibilities in good faith, as outlined in the agreement.