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Reviewed by Carl D. Schneider, Montpelier, VT

Assessing John Haynes’ contributions to mediation must go beyond a simple book review. His shadow extends over the whole field of divorce mediation. John’s books are essential reading in the field. In them, he is immensely helpful with practical interventions, while simultaneously being one of the key theoreticians of this new field. But to talk of John’s books without also talking of his videotapes is to omit a core element. The tapes, invaluable in themselves to so many of us, are also actually the data in his books documenting the process of mediation. This is true not only of Mediating Divorce, but also of his latest book. The Fundamentals of Family Mediation. (Reviewed in this issue of Mediation News.) John’s cases are like Freud’s early cases – critical data on which much of the theory of the field rests.

What of his books? Haynes has given us three books. However, reading early Haynes is like reading early Freud; you not only glimpse a mind struggling to define a field, but you also watch as the Father of the field engages in practice that he later eschews. Indeed, Haynes now publicly disavows his early work, Divorce Mediation. Why the disavowal? The very subtitle of his first book, A Practical Guide for Therapists and Counselors, highlights the problem. In this book, John describes taking “time out” from the mediation, basically to contract for short-term therapy sessions. As he noted at the time, “I believe that it is inappropriate for the mediator to work with the couple as a therapist for more than a couple of time-out sessions.” (p. 53.) He now, of course, disbelieves that a mediator should do therapy with a case which he or she mediates.

Mediating Divorce, Haynes’s second book, is organized around five verbatim accounts, with commentary, of the well known videotapes that John has produced with Larry Fong. Apart from the several tapes that the Academy has produced for training purposes. no one else has put together anything like these tapes. These tapes are the mediation equivalent of the famous “Gloria” tapes in psychotherapy: they have trained a generation of mediators. John’s book is analogous to the work of Robert Langs in psychotherapy – a unique compilation of verbatim accounts with commentary. I personally learn an enormous amount from this format, and John’s tapes and book remain unique in the field.

The theory in Mediating Divorce, however, seems less helpful. John sums it up in the last chapter as organized around three areas: using language to change client’s perceptions, the use of thinking styles, and identifying when mediation does not work. (p. 310.) This chapter, and the theory throughout the book, feel piecemeal and disjointed, curiously unsatisfying. In this book I sense John struggling to find a conceptual framework that would adequately capture what he does in mediation. It is as if he picks up and tries several different frameworks, and none quite do the job. They feel like post-hoc explanations, rather than what actually animates John’s work.

John’s latest book is the distillation of his years of mediating over 5,000 cases and training 15,000 professionals. It is, as John says, a “cook book” based on his own training program. As such, it is a workman-like text, giving people the basics they will need. It will probably, and deservedly, become a widely used text for introductory training in divorce mediation.

Despite the tremendous contribution of John’s written work to the development of mediation, he has somehow not captured in his writing a quality that he conveys on tape and in person, a “presence” that goes beyond technique. That presence may be similar to what Baruch Bush and Joe Folger refer to as “recognition,” and they propose that mediation, at its heart, is an ethical enterprise, organized around empowerment and recognition. I find the dimension of recognition often missing in John’s written work. His style of intervention is often characterized more by disattending than by acknowledgment.

It is only speculation, but I sense that John has intentionally limited himself in his books to dealing with technique. This may have been an important strategic decision that has enabled this field to gain acceptance by the public and professional communities. But now that it will shortly be twenty years that divorce mediation has been with us, I would like to see John take the wraps off and share the more personal side of his work.

John’s three books to date comprise a core of fundamental reading in the basic technique of divorce mediation. But if John has another book left in him, I would hope, for him and for us, that he reflect on what I experience as the unnamed component in his work. He has given us the steps, now. in three books. When he mediates, though, he does more than follow steps; he dances. He has given us an excellent cook book that identifies the ingredients. John, however, does more than put the ingredients together correctly, Like all good cooks, he has a flair, a personality to his cooking. Good cooking has soul. I would like to hear more from John on that.

There is, running through John’s second book, Mediating Divorce, a chord that could let us hear the music, not just the notes: it is John’s discussion of “that of God” in each of us. John writes:

“Part of this wisdom is “that of God” that each of us carries… the reader may feel more comfortable in spelling God with two “O’s, so as to say that there is good in everyone…If there is “that of God” in everyone, then the mediator must in all humility seek it.” (pp. 1728.)

“This concept goes beyond being nonjudgmental and becomes an active search to like and love the person with whom one is working.”(p.264)

I find clients wanting more than simple agreements from us. They need that. But they hunger for some resolution, some healing to what they are going through. We can assist people with this in mediation. I think it is that component which has drawn so many of us to this field as mediators. John has given us our basic texts on technique. I look forward to his inviting us beyond technique, to share that extra something that we must in all humility seek. I suspect that extra something opens us as mediators to a dimension beyond agreements, to assisting our clients in resolution and healing.


  1. Divorce Mediation by John M, Haynes; Publisher: Springer Publishing Co.; 1981
  2. Mediating Divorce: Casebook of Strategies for Successful Family Negotiations by John M. Haynes and Gretchen L. Haynes; Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1989
  3. The Fundamentals of Family Mediation by John M. Haynes; Publisher: State University of New York Press; 1994
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