Community of Practice


NVMS has had a long-standing tradition of organizing events through which mediators could network, get to know each other, and complete recertification requirements. The  Community of Practice continues this tradition with an increased focus on:
  • Providing a safe, respectful, and positive environment for members to exchange ideas and problem solve the challenges they encounter in their practice.
  • Building a network of peers and experts in the field that can serve as a resource.
  • Exploring and sharing best practices, models, tools, and theories that enhance subject matter knowledge and practical approaches.
  • Enhancing reflective practice and refining skills with challenge sessions on fundamental and advanced topics.


August 26 – 7-9pm (7-7:30 networking; 7:30-9pm program)
Interfaith Perspectives on Conflict Resolution
Panel: TBA

CME: 1.5 (pending)
Cost: $15
Join us and your colleagues to hear from a panel of faith leaders who will share their perspectives on religion and conflict, including how conflict is defined and handled in their communities. One of the panelists will speak to a particular approach to mediation based on Christian values. This will be an open forum with ample opportunities to ask questions. 

Register here

September 30 – 7-9pm
Working Effectively with Language Barriers and Interpreters
Facilitator: Dylan Bates, NVMS Community Mediation Manager
CME: 1.5 (pending)
This will be a practice-based session for NVMS practitioners to gain experience in working through cases with language barriers and cultural differences. The session will start with a discussion of cultural awareness and language barriers, and continue with practitioners working in groups on specific scenarios covering areas such as class/social status, disabilities, assessing for appropriateness, family interventions, body language, phrasing and connotation etc.

In the second half of the session, practitioners will move into Peer Consultation-style discussions of personal experiences focusing on working with interpreters, clients from different countries, and critical moments involving implicit bias.

Register here

Past Events

January 2019 - Mentorship in Dispute Resolution: Best Practices and Discussion

January 28 - Mentorship in Dispute Resolution: Best Practices and Discussion

Time: 7-9pm

Cost: $15
Facilitator: Dylan M. Bates
CME: 2 (Approved)


Program Description

This event is designed for new and experienced mentor mediators within the Virginia court system. The first hour of the program will focus on small group discussion using the peer consultation model. This is an opportunity for mentors and those interested in being a mentor to assess their mentoring style and share perspectives into their practice.

The second hour of the program will act as a refresher on the roles and responsibilities in mentoring new mediators. This will follow the VA Supreme Court OES-DRS guidelines and cover such topics such as honest evaluation, prep/debrief with mentees, roles of mentees in various stages of the mentorship process and resources for mentors.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

1. Refresh their knowledge of the Virginia Mentorship requirements as per the Guidelines for the Training and Certification of Court-Certified Mediators and Mentorship Guidelines.
2. Engage in a Peer Mediator Consultation process to reflect and share their experiences as mentors.
3. Identify and reinforce mentoring best practices as they relate to Virginia Court Mediator Certification Mentorship.

About the Facilitator

Dylan M. Bates is the Community Programs Manager at NVMS.In this capacity, he manages the civil court mediation and mentorship, community dispute resolution, and restorative justice programs. In addition to his VA Supreme court mediator certification for civil cases, he has dispute resolution experience in community and neighbor conflicts. He has facilitated dialogues around issues of organizational culture, identity, and group trauma. He has delivered workshops and presentations focusing on topics of entrenched conflicts, the power of symbols in everyday life, and workplace psychology. Dylan holds a BA in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University with a concentration in International Affairs and Latin American Studies.

October 2018 - Reality-Testing

October 29 – Reality-Testing

Time: 7-9pm (7-7:30pm networking)

Cost: $15
Facilitators: Jim Pope
CME: Approved 1.5

Program Description

In our next CoP session, Jim Pope will lead us in a discussion of reality testing with parties, to help get us thinking more about whether options that the parties come up with would actually work for them, and how to best guide them in testing these options while maintaining self-determination in the mediation. Using several scenarios, the participants will analyze and discuss ways to help parties determine whether options are really workable, before signing an agreement!

About the Facilitator

James Q. Pope is an attorney, Supreme Court of Virginia certified mentor mediator, and consultant in conflict management and other subjects related to workplace conflict, employee relations, civil disputes, child support and divorce, and special education. Pope is currently an Adjunct Professor of Mediation and Arbitration at the Catholic University Columbus School of Law and an Adjunct Professor of Mediation at George Mason University School of Law and has been a guest lecturer at George Washington University School of Law, Georgetown University School of Law, and Howard University School of Law. Pope conducted US Department of State-sponsored mediation trainings for the governments of Israel and Palestine and mediated and conducted conflict management, mediation, and negotiation trainings for numerous public and private agencies and organizations, including the U.S. Postal Service, the USDA., the Department of the Navy, NOAA, NASA, NEA, FAA, US Air Force, US Forest Service, the World Bank, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Arkansas Supreme Court, IRS, United States Postal Service, DEA, National Archives, Virginia Supreme Court, Virginia Mediation Network, and Northern Virginia Mediation Service. Pope currently serves as an administrative hearing officer for the Virginia Supreme Court, in which capacity Pope reviews and rules upon state employee grievances related to terminations and disciplinary actions. Pope is a former member of the Executive Board of the District of Columbia chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution (formerly the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution – DC SPIDR). Pope holds a Doctorate of Jurisprudence (JD) from George Washington University Law School, a Master Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia.


Session Summary

On October 29, 2018, Jim Pope, certified mediator, VA attorney, consultant and adjunct professor of mediation, arbitration and ADR at George Mason University and Catholic University Law Schools, hosted a lively discussion in COP’s session on the timing, circumstances, techniques and ethical boundaries of Reality Testing.  Some of the issues explored by Jim and the group include the following.

  • There are very few “written materials,” i.e., scholarly treatises, textbook analysis, etc., on reality testing in mediation.  Textbooks and other mediation publications generally tend to give a relatively cursory treatment to “reality testing”.  Beyond the basic BATNA and WATNA questioning, - “What is the

August 2018 - Reflective Practice: A Key to Mediator Success

August 27 Event - Reflective Practice: A Key to Mediator Success

Time: 7-9pm (7-7:30pm networking)

Cost: $15
Facilitators: Jeannette Twomey and Frank Blechman
CME: Pending 1.5

Program Description

Take your practice to the next level through reflective practice, a key element in mediator success!

What is reflective practice and why is it important?  Do we effectively analyze the critical moments in mediation to develop new insights and continually learn?

In this engaging CoP session, award-winning mediator, Jeanette Twomey, and former George Mason University Conflict Resolution Professor, Frank Blechman, will identify the tools and framework of reflective practice.  Using examples from their practices, they will also demonstrate how disciplined and structured self-reflection can enhance our insights, sharpen our skills and propel every experience into a path of continual learning.

About the Facilitators

Jeannette Twomey is a mediator, facilitator and conflict resolution trainer in private practice, who has been recognized by her peers for her knowledge, skill, and contributions to the development of ADR in the Commonwealth of Virginia. She has been certified by the Supreme Court of Virginia since 1993 to mediate court-referred cases and to teach courses that are part of the statewide certification program.  She is a designated Virginia Mentor Mediator, who regularly trains mediators in Mentoring New Mediators, Mediator Ethics, Economic Issues of Divorce, Elder Mediation, and Cognitive Barriers to Conflict Resolution.

Jeannette has sustained a strong professional interest in mediator reflective practice since 2004 when she pioneered mediator peer consultation groups through community mediation centers in Virginia.  This was a joint project of the Virginia Mediation Network and the Virginia Association for Community Conflict Resolution. It was based on the concepts of Michael Lang and Alison Taylor in their book, The Making of a Mediator (Jossey-Bass, 2000).

Frank Blechman is a consultant helping businesses, community organizations, and public agencies increase their effectiveness through internal and external consensus building.  He has assisted with process design, system design, facilitation, training, and motivation. Since 2002, he has been an organizational consultant, working on local and state-level projects.

From 1991-2002, he was a member of the graduate faculty at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution of George Mason University.  In that capacity, he taught clinical courses, and directed fieldwork done by faculty and students. From 1998-2002, he served as the coordinator of the Institute's Masters Degree program and as chair of the Curriculum Committee.  Since 2013, he has served as a Board member of the Northern Virginia Mediation Service (NVMS). He has extensive experience in research and analysis, conflict intervention, mediation and conciliation of public issues, designing conflict-resolving processes and systems, and providing training in conflict resolution to policymakers, public and private officials and citizen leaders.  He has led interventions in disputes involving land-use, transportation, historic preservation, church procedures, educational structures, ethnic rivalry, and governance. 


Event Summary

Reflective Practice: A Key to Mediator Success

The skills learned in basic mediation are not the end goal.  But, if not, what is? Trust, credibility, knowledge, expertise...?  How does reflective practice help us reach these goals? By teaching us how to adapt our basic knowledge and skills to our unique strengths, skills and personality, and the situations which occur in our practice.  In this COP sponsored presentation on Monday, August 27, 2018, award-winning mediator Jeannette Twomey and former George Mason University Professor and Conflict Resolution expert Frank Blechman made a compelling case for enhancing growth and effectiveness in mediation through a structured self-reflective practice using the attached handouts and offering the following tools.    

  1. Avoid the “never/always traps:  When something goes well, do not pledge to use it all the time.  When something goes badly, do not vow to never to use it again. Ask instead:  “Why did it work? “Why did it not work?” “When should I use it? And, when should I avoid using it?”
  2. After every case:
    • Journal:  Write good case notes and identify points to reflect upon.  
    • Reflect:  Build in a time, e.g., a week, to reflect, leave and return to the critical moments.  Ask “What was good? What was bad? And, what should I do next?”  
    • Use the next case;  Reflect on the good/bad from the last mediation and apply your reflections and analysis to the critical moments in the next case.
  3. Rely on the “three-legged stool:”  Knowledge, practice and reflection are the elements of the cycle of reinforcement and self-awareness.  
    • Self-reflection:
      • Tie what you’ve done to what you believe.  
      • For more enlightenment, deliberate more.
      • To make a tighter connection between what you do and why you did it, ask: What happened? Why is it important? What do I do now?
  4. Explore various methods to improve:
    • Try new forums
    • Co-mediate
    • Practice
    • Seek formal training
    • Self-assess
      • The state of Wisconsin offers a reflective self-assessment questionnaire for mediators ($5.00) 
    • Read, study, google
    • Consult with peers, coaches, mentors, etc.
      • Discuss every case and seek feedback
      • Use logs, in-person meetings or telephonic and/or video conferences, as opportunities for exchanging ideas.

What’s the risk of not developing a self-reflective practice?  Getting stuck.  Stagnating. Mediocrity.  : (

June 2018 - Ace Your Orientation

June 25 Event - Ace Your Orientation

Time: 7-9pm (7-7:30pm networking)
Cost: $15
Facilitators: Cindy O'Connor and Kevin Dillon
1.5 CMEs - Pending Approval

Program Description

The Orientation, and the Agreement to Mediate that informs it is the mediator's opportunity to build trust, rapport, and set the framework for a successful mediation. As each case is different, Orientations and Agreements to Mediate can vary with the type of client and type of mediation (e.g., family v. civil, mediations with attorneys present, parties who are voluntarily in mediation v. court-referred, etc.). Panelists Cindy O'Connor and Kevin Dillon will discuss the issues to be considered in drafting an agreement to mediate and tailoring the orientation to the parties. Participants will have the opportunity to examine examples of Agreements to Mediate that have been designed for particular situations. The discussion will provide food for thought for mediators at all levels -- students, new mediators, as well as those who have many years' of experience.

Learning Objectives

  1. Review considerations for tailoring the Agreement to Mediate.
  2. Review considerations for tailoring your orientation.
  3. Analyze examples of Agreements to Mediate that have been designed for particular situations.

Session Summary

Orientation is a key and essential phase of a successful mediation.  At the COP Session on Monday, June 25, 2018, guest panelists Kevin Dillon and Cynthia O'Connor spurred a lively discussion on best practices, problem-solving and practical tips for crafting an orientation that dissolves roadblocks and builds a strong basis upon which a mediation can succeed.  

Some of the best practices offered included the following.

  1. Use the orientation to draw the parties into the process:  Most people don’t understand what mediation is, what it is not or how it works. Some people are preoccupied and/or too agitated to listen. Don’t rush. Read body language and use people skills to settle the parties down.  Ensure that they understand the core elements of mediation, e.g., voluntariness, self-determination, reliance on good faith, respect and courtesy, listening, preservation of rights to a court determination, etc.   Give examples, where appropriate, to clarify, e.g.,   
    • Confidentiality: If the parties get angry and say “reportable” things, the mediator is a mandatory court reporter of certain statements which can affect the party’s job, security clearance, etc.,
    • Voluntariness: The parties can stop the mediation at any time, and should understand that they can return to court for adjudication.  However, they should objectively weigh the alternatives, i.e., what a court can decide, that a judgment may require collection, and how judgment could affect a party’s credit, etc.
    • Good faith: All relevant information should be on the table, e.g., pending promotion, intent to file an action in another court, forum shopping, etc.       
  2. Tailor the orientation and the agreement to participate in mediation of a private case.  However, in doing so, always ensure that:
    • All mandatory elements are met; and
    • If the case is part of a court program or organization’s roster, all court/organization’s requirements are met.  
  3. Ensure that the people in the room are authorized to be there.  Know who the parties are and ensure that each of them is authorized to make final decisions.  
  4. “A waste of time?”  Use reality testing to win the debate.  When a party says that mediation is a waste of time, remind him/her that s/he has already taken the day off from work, driven to the courthouse, attended the court session, etc.  If mediation works, the case is over and the matter is, hopefully, resolved.


April 2018 - "Selling" Mediation: From the First Phone Call to the First Mediation Session

April 30 Event – “Selling” Mediation: From the first phone call to the first mediation session

Time: 7-9pm (7-7:30pm networking)
Cost: $15
Facilitators: Dr. Virginia Colin and Philip Mulford
1.5 CMEs – Pending Approval

Program Description

The first phone conversation with a client is a crucial part in whether an inquiry turns into a mediation. The facilitators will guide participants in considering how to create party buy-in and address challenging questions that may deter parties from moving forward. Some questions that will guide the conversation:

  • If one party is eager to mediate and the other is reluctant, how do you handle that?
  • What aspects of mediation may parties be hesitant about?
  • To what extent are you still “selling” mediation in your first face-to-face meeting with clients? 
  • If one party decides to drop out of mediation and the other calls you asking how to pull them back in, what do you say?

Learning Objectives

  1. Explore techniques to build trust and rapport with parties and encourage them to try the process.
  2. Develop ideas on how to address challenging questions.
  3. Share experiences and approaches.


Session Summary

Dr. Virginia Colin and Philip Mulford, led the April COP session on “Selling Mediation: How Do You Get from the First Phone Call to the First Mediation Meeting?” The facilitators first established the following three basic precepts to which all participants agreed.

  • Mediation sells itself as a more efficient, less expensive, and less distressing alternative to litigation, with party control over the outcome;
  • To “sell” mediation is basically to describe the process; and 
  • A mediator must preserve neutrality and confidentiality from the start. 

The facilitators then raised, and the group explored, the following ideas to sell mediation from the initial call while preserving neutrality and confidentiality:

  • Limiting a party’s discussion of facts in the initial conversation and focusing on providing general information about mediation verses permitting the caller to tell his/her story as an opportunity to show compassion and build trust and provide general information about mediation.
  • Declining requests to call the non-calling partner to discuss mediation versus encouraging the caller to suggest the other party contact the mediator and provide the mediator’s contact information and website.
  • Initiating follow up calls and/or emails versus awaiting the client’s contact.
  • Initiating screening questions - to screen for physical abuse, substance and alcohol abuse, intimidation, restraining orders, the need for separate rooms, etc., - in the initial call verses screening by various other means from the initial contact throughout the mediation process.
  • Inviting third-party support persons and attorneys to attend mediation and setting parameters, as required.
  • The group also explored some frequently asked questions posed by the facilitators and considered the following potential responses:

“How long will the mediation take?”
Response:  Ask what the parties plan to mediate and estimate the time based on the issues.

“What can I do to prepare for mediation?” 

  • Review the mediator’s website.
  • Bring as many documents listed on the site as reasonably possible.
  • Avoid trying to resolve the issues before mediation, (as it tends to cause parties to lock into their positions.)

“May I bring my attorney?”
Response:  Attorneys are welcome.  However, the parties are the primary participants in mediation.  If only one party is represented, all parties must consent to allow the attorney to attend the mediation sessions.  Third party support persons may attend the mediation only with the consent of all parties.  All non-parties who attend the mediation sessions must agree in writing to confidentiality.

February 2018 - Co-Mediating Effectively: The Pre-Mediation Conversation

February 26 Event - Co-Mediating Effectively: The Pre-Mediation Conversation

Time: 7-9pm
Cost: $15
Facilitators: Julia Morelli and James Meditz
Approved for 2 CMEs

Program Description

Co-mediating offers benefits and challenges. In this workshop, participants will learn to better identify their own and their co-mediator's preferences, techniques, and approaches to the mediation process and managing the parties dynamics.

This session is for all mediators will draw on the group's experience. It emphasizes the importance and value of the co-mediators having a purposeful pre-mediation conversation in advance of convening the session. In recognizing and discussing their individual preferences and expectations, co-mediators can best assist the parties in achieving a successful outcome. While drawing on existing lists of topics and processes used in advanced mediation training and the mentoring process, this interactive session will expand on those topics as well as look deeper into the nuances of them that may be significant for co-mediators.


This session is intended to benefit mediators with all levels of experience.

Learning Objectives

  1. Develop an appreciation of the value and complexity of preparing to co-mediate.
  2. Develop an approach to co-mediator conversations that align expectations around professional and individual preferences between co-mediators.
  3. Develop a comprehensive approach to preparing for future co-mediations.


January 2018 - Sustainable Resolutions

January 29 Event - Sustainable Resolutions: Agreement Writing for The New Year and Beyond

Time: 7-8:30pm
Cost: $15
Facilitator: Izabela Solosi, NVMS Training Program Manager
CME/CLE credits: pending

Program Description
Agreement writing is an essential skill every successful mediator must master. How do your skills measure up? In this workshop participants will have the opportunity to review agreement writing best practices, receive feedback on their agreement writing skills from their peers, and work in small groups to analyze real agreements and identify ways to improve them.

Optional: Bring along samples of agreements you have written and ask your peers for feedback!

Learning Objectives

  1. Review considerations for agreement writing
  2. Identify best practice techniques
  3. Analyze agreements and identify opportunities for improvement

Sustainable Resolutions - Participant Handout (PDF)