Serving our community for more than 35 years

How to Volunteer

Volunteer Mediator Training Program

The Mediation Center of Dutchess County trains mediators in the transformative framework of conflict resolution, first articulated in the book “The Promise of Mediation” by Robert Baruch Bush and Joseph P. Folger. Within this framework, conflict is viewed as a crisis in human interaction and the mediator’s role is to help people become clearer, make decisions and see the perspective of the other person whenever possible, oftentimes resulting in a change in the way they relate to each other. One outcome of transformative mediation is a written agreement, however parties may make other decisions about the outcome of the conflict. Transformative mediators help parties think and consider what is important to them, how they see things differently, and what they choose to do about the situation by supporting the conversation between the them.

Steps to Becoming a Volunteer 

The Mediation Center’s Volunteer Training Program consists of four required components: an orientation session, training, apprenticeship, and continuing education.Mediators in Training

  1. Attend an orientation session. At the orientation session, staff will discuss the Mediation Center’s philosophy of conflict intervention, programs and services offered, relationships with courts and the community, and the commitment required of volunteers.
  2. Complete the 40-hour Basic Mediation Training. Training includes principles of transformative conflict theory, the mediator’s role as an intervener in conflict, supportive responsiveness, role-playing, intake (pre-mediation), and agreement writing.  Upon successful completion of training, you will receive a certificate qualifying you to enter the Mediation Center’s apprenticeship program. During this training, interested volunteers will complete an application form and, if accepted, will be asked to sign up for one of the mentored apprenticeship groups. The Mediation Center will notify you if you have been selected to participate in the apprenticeship and volunteer program.
  3. Work with a mentor and a mentored apprenticeship group.  In addition to meeting with a mentored apprenticeship group, apprentices must observe at least one mediation and co-mediate up to 10 mediations with mentor supervision. Integrated into the apprenticeship period are video assessments. Toward the beginning of the apprenticeship, apprentices will be filmed mediating a role play, and will then observe and assess their own practice from the video. Afterwards, they will watch and review their video with their mentor. Apprentices do a video role play again at the end of their apprenticeship. Certification is based on continuing progress and evaluation of the second video role play.

Upon completion of the video evaluation and written observation, the mentor will make one of the following recommendations:

  • The apprentice is recommended for certification,
  • The apprentice is recommended for certification and to co-mediate with an experienced transformative mediator and attend at least one practice group,
  • The apprentice is recommended for re-evaluation after two additional co-mediations, and to attend at least one practice group,
  • The apprentice is not recommended for certification

Upon successful observation, evaluation, completion of the apprenticeship program, and mentor recommendation, the Mediation Center of Dutchess County will certify you as a mediator.

To maintain your certification. To remain active and certified, volunteers must complete six hours per year of continuing education, mediate a minimum of three cases per year, participate in outreach, and continue to provide best practices in transformative mediation. A volunteer’s year begins after completion of the apprenticeship. 

How much of a time commitment is the apprenticeship/volunteer program?

The Volunteer Mediator Training Program is a commitment of about five to 10 hours a month, plus travel. Commitments are time specific as there are set group meetings and small claims court sessions which apprentices are required to attend. As part of the apprenticeship program, participants mediate sessions at small claims courts throughout Dutchess County.  There are opportunities to attend mediation sessions both at night and during the day but a commitment must be made to a set schedule. We have found in years past that the biggest hurdle to completing the apprenticeship is participants’ schedules. We ask that people who would like to participate in the apprenticeship evaluate how much time they realistically have, their flexibility, and whether they would be able to travel to different courts throughout Dutchess County to attend the required number of mediations. Once volunteers are certified by the Mediation Center, we require that they mediate at least three times a year, attend six hours of continuing education, participate in outreach, and continue to provide best practices in transformative mediation to maintain their certification. 

*Mediators can be certified by the Centers for which they mediate, not by New York State. Centers are responsible for maintaining quality assurance through apprenticeship, continuing education, observation and supervision of mediators.