Hayley MacPhail has 20 years experience as a mediator and educator. She specializes in Family Mediation, and teaches an online mediation course at Kompass Professional Development.
If you're considering becoming a mediator (or just want to improve your conflict resolution skills), selecting the right training program can be a major challenge. There are so many options out there.The field of mediation isn't regulated in Canada; however, those who want to be taken seriously earn the Qualified Mediator (Q. Med) designation with the ADR Institute.
So, your first order of business is to find an ADR-accredited mediation program. And then you'll need to decide which format you want: on ground, online, part time, full-time...
Plus, you'll need to consider how the training is structured, who the instructor is, and what real skills you'll walk away with.
To sort it all out, there's no one better to talk to than Hayley MacPhail. An educator and professional mediator for over 20 years, Hayley teaches the online Mediation for Professionals Certificate at Kompass.
We interviewed her to get a clearer picture of how an accredited online mediation course works. She explains training, key skills, career paths, and what students find most rewarding about this training.
Here's what you can expect in Hayley's class—and some expert tips on how to succeed as a mediator.
Q: Hayley, can you give us a little background on your experience as a mediator and educator?
Hayley: I have been a mediator for 20 years. I started my training by taking courses with the University of Toronto’s ADR program in 1998, and then later added Family Mediation and Collaborative Practice courses.
After completing my master’s degree in adult education in counselling psychology, I began working as a counsellor. My focus was researching and promoting child-centred parenting plans, and developing an interdisciplinary service for separating families.
My goal was to help people navigate the changing needs of their separating families and help them thrive during a very stressful time.
I worked with family lawyers and co-mediated disputes during a time when family law was expanding beyond the traditional adversarial court processes. Clients began to have more voice and autonomy to resolve their own issues.
For me, both personally and professionally, working as a mediator and with other forms of alternative dispute resolution is my preferred manner of creating positive change.
Alternative dispute resolution is a wonderful, stimulating field that continues to evolve, while promoting and leading the changes needed to address conflict.
Q: What are the main skills you teach in the Mediation for Professionals Certificate? What do students walk away with?
Hayley: The main skills I teach in the Mediation Certificate are founded on my training and experiences as a counsellor.
Also, this program is accredited by the ADR Institute of Canada. So, learning goals are designed to match the educational component students need to earn their Qualified Mediator designation.
We focus on learning to become a facilitator. Mediators must be curious, ask questions, and encourage clients to tell their stories. The client has the answer to their problem—and it is our role to bring forth those moments of awareness and revelation.
Through coursework and role play, students learn to be non-judgmental, listen for solutions and possibilities, and understand the situation and needs of both parties.
Students also learn how to ask goal-directed and future-oriented questions, so clients can move forward and begin discussing goals and strategies for change.
Q: Who is this training designed for? What backgrounds do your students come from?
Hayley: Mediation attracts people from various professional backgrounds. Many students have subject matter expertise and want to mediate in a field they already know a lot about— such as construction, health, digital, and many more and newer areas.
The combination of subject matter expertise and a strong knowledge of mediation process allows graduates of this course to better navigate conflict in their fields.
Q: Is everyone in your class planning to become a professional mediator? Or are there other motivations for learning these skills?
Hayley: There are quite a few different goals and motivations at play here. For example, students often share their own challenges with conflict and the devastating effects it has had on their lives.
They've experienced workplace conflict with a colleague or a supervisor, or personal conflict with a neighbour or family member, or a divorce.
This is one reason why some students take the online mediation course—so they can strengthen their ability to handle conflict in their own lives.
Other students have experienced the positive effects of mediation while working through a personal or professional dispute. They were impressed with the results and are now interested in training to become mediators themselves. Or they believe learning these skills will enhance their professional skillset.
I've also had students who recently moved into managerial positions and want to build stronger listening and conflict resolution skills. Others have retired from a former career and are taking this training with the idea of doing mediation work.
Q: Can you talk about how the online format works? How do you keep everyone on track and motivated throughout the program?
Hayley: The online format works really well for students. Most of them work full time or have a busy family life, so the flexibility of training online is hugely beneficial.
Students can tune into lectures and discussions on their phones while in transit. Or they can listen and take notes later, as every lecture is recorded.
We hold regular live sessions to address questions and make sure everyone is on track.
I really encourage students to bring their own questions and experiences to the training and to share those ideas with other class members.
We have lively discussions—and I bring in the latest research and resources on mediation, so we can align our work with current trends in the field.
Q: What do your students tend to find most challenging about the coursework for this certificate?
Hayley: Out of all the activities and assignments we do, I find the role-playing exercises seem the most challenging to students...at least at first!
Before long, students really get into the mediation role-plays. They're surprised by how real it feels, how much they're able to apply and strengthen their skills—and how good they feel about what they bring to the table.
Part of mediation training is learning how to put yourself in your client's shoes. You have to build those strengths and competencies. Role-playing is a big part of that learning process and can be quite powerful.
But I will say, that I've been teaching college for a long time, and I believe our mediation students come to class ready to learn and open themselves up. They're comfortable with being a little uncomfortable.
Q: What aspects of the mediation training do you find students enjoy most?
Hayley: There are several areas where students respond really well. Overall, we have such an encouraging and non-threatening environment, that a strong sense of sharing and comradeship develops throughout the program.
The role-plays are recorded so the whole group can listen in, and after each session, there is a readiness to congratulate and encourage each other. It's a really lovely training environment.
Q: How hard is it to find your first mediation clients? What advice would you share with someone who is just starting out?
Hayley: Securing clients gets easier the more you get a positive reputation. So initially, it's very important to network and advertise.
For some students, their potential clients are readily accessible because they are already working in an area that would benefit from a more peaceful conflict resolution process.
To get the ball rolling, you might begin with some co-mediations—or offer your services pro bono to gain experience and get referrals.
Q: What are the most common areas of practice for mediation today?
Hayley: There are many areas of practice for mediators. Some of the most common fields include:
- Family mediation
- Community mediation
- Labour relations
- Tenant mediation
- Conflict resolution training for Boards
However, there is growing interest in using mediation in other areas, such as elder mediation, child welfare mediation, court-connected (mandatory) mediation, and more areas that relate to subject matter expertise.
Recently, I helped work on updating the Ontario Dental Association manual and training for volunteer dentist mediators. I also have students who work for insurance companies who inform me that mediation is mandatory in their field.
Across disciplines, mediation is being employed and tested, at the civic, municipal, national, and international levels.
Q: What would you say are the biggest myths and misconceptions around the practice of mediation?
Hayley: Hands down, the biggest myth is that mediators "give advice" and will "resolve" their client’s problems.
It's true that there are different types of mediation....so an evaluative mediator may be more directive with their clients, providing alternatives and possible suggestions for resolution.
Likewise, lawyers who work as mediators are often asked to provide legal opinions on proposed solutions.
But generally speaking, mediators set the stage for clients to do the work. They act as facilitators. Mediators work hard to read the room and put forth questions and observations that move the healing forward.
This is a really challenging process. As mediators, we create a safe and supportive environment for clients to do the really hard work of moving away from conflict and hurt toward resolution and peace.
Thank you Hayley for sharing your insights and shedding some light on mediation training and professional practice. We're very lucky to have you on the faculty at Kompass Professional Development!
Interested in learning more about online mediation training at Kompass?
The Mediation for Professionals Certificate is a 12-week, online mediation course.
The program is accredited by the ADR Institute of Canada, and meets the training component required to achieve the national and provincial Qualified Mediator (Q. Med) designation.
Chat live with an admissions advisor to learn more about this training. Or click below to explore the mediation certificate. We're here to help!