Volunteer FAQ

What is the CMC’s working definition of mediation?
Mediation is a process that helps people resolve their own disputes to their mutual satisfaction in a voluntary and informed way.  Two volunteer mediators, called co-mediators, are impartial between the parties and committed to mediating a fair, informed, confidential and honest process.


What kind of cases do CMC volunteers mediate?
CMC receives referrals to mediate from Knox County courts, primarily Knox County General Sessions Court, both Civil and Criminal, and from Knox County Juvenile Court.  We also accept referrals from individual disputants, schools, law enforcement, social service agencies, hospitals, small businesses, neighborhood organizations, nonprofit agencies and organizations.  Our programs are more fully described here.


Who are the CMC mediators?
Currently, CMC has over 50 active volunteer mediators who mediate from once a week to once a month.  Our mediators come from all walks of life:  stay-at-home moms and dads, retired university professors, school  counselors and teachers, attorneys and law students, social workers, therapists, nurses, middle and high school students, to name just a few.


Why does CMC use the co-mediation model?
Over 85% of community mediation centers nationwide use the co-mediation model.  This model is a wonderful way for volunteers to become comfortable with the process and to feel like they have a partner with whom they can discuss otherwise confidential matters. Co-mediators can also subtly demonstrate cooperative and respectful behaviors for the disputants.  For instance, CMC tries to pair male and female mediators when possible, to help balance “power” in divorce and parenting mediations where male-female relationships are at issue.


What is the commitment for being a volunteer mediator?
A volunteer mediator must undergo a rigorous 30 hr classroom and roleplay training, usually held over two weekends.  This portion of the training covers the basics of conflict resolution principles, our 6-step facilitative mediation model, an introduction to our referring courts and forms used in each forum, and participation in mediation simulations.

The training is priced to cover the cost of materials and food, under $100.  The volunteer’s real cost is his/her contractual commitment to serve as a CMC mediator for one year.  Typically, a volunteer spends 100 hours a year mediating.  Volunteers are also encouraged, if interested, to help with board committees, such as the training committee, the development committee and the peer mediation/schools committee.

General Sessions Court mediators agree to mediate downtown at Sessions Court on specific days beginning at 8:30am, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.  This is a day-of-court program, so–with the exception of cases coming to us outside the courtroom—our staff does not schedule mediation sessions.  We depend on our volunteer mediator to show up and co-mediate on their morning.  The typical day of mediation is over by early afternoon.

Juvenile Court, parenting and divorce mediations are generally scheduled Monday-Thursday evenings, from 6:00pm – 9:00pm, at the Division St. Juvenile Court Annex.

There are a number of family mediations, neighborhood mediations, as well as our work with 4th Circuit Order of Protection docket, which takes place during daytime hours.

As a rule, mediations take anywhere from 1 hr to 3 hrs, and may be “continued” to another session.


Do volunteers work with the Community Mediation Center in ways other than being mediators?
Yes, some of our mediators serve on the CMC Board. Volunteers do most of the interviewing and screening of new volunteers. Still others are involved in updating our training materials. Many of the volunteers will be coaches during the training sessions. While it is not required, we hope many of our new volunteers are able to make similar contributions.  Here are some opportunities to get involved.


Can I become a Rule 31 mediator by taking CMC’s basic volunteer mediator training?
The CMC training is slightly different from Rule 31 family or civil mediation training.  Our training is approved as a Rule 31 family training, but we reserve 16 hrs of it (having to do with divorce and other advanced family law topics) until the successful trainee has mediated with us for 1 year.

We offer our volunteer mediators in good standing a “finishing” training at the end of a year.  Together with their basic training, this will give the eligible mediator a Rule 31 approved training at a much-reduced cost.

To be eligible to apply to be a Rule 31 mediator, an applicant must have educational credentials or many years of experience.  As well, under the controlling Tennessee Supreme Court rule, the Rule 31 family mediator must receive 46 hrs of approved basic training.  The Rule 31 Civil mediator must receive 40 hours of approved training.  The trainings, if taken from private providers, usually cost $1500-$2000.  The applicant must submit their applicantion and be approved by the Tennessee ADR Commission, must pay an application fee and an annual fee to be “listed” as a Rule 31 mediator, and must also take 12 hours of continuing mediation education (CME) every two years.

For more information, please read Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 or visit the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts’ website. 

If I am a Rule 31 mediator, can I volunteer for CMC?
We encourage Rule 31 mediators to become CMC volunteers.  It’s a wonderful way to give back to the community and also get what’s most necessary to improve professional skills: practice, practice, practice!  Rule 31 mediators need to take a short (approximately 8-12 hr training) after observing a mediation and debriefing with staff or board trainers.  This “bridge” training will focus on: the CMC 6-step empowerment community mediation model; co-mediation; and specific court forms we use in General Sessions and Juvenile Courts.  The new volunteer will then observe and co-mediate with senior mediators, as any new trainee would do.

Rule 31 mediators may also take our full training.

Please call or email and ask about when these “bridge” trainings are scheduled.


How do I apply to be a volunteer mediator?
Please fill out our application for basic training. You can fill out an application online or by downloading and faxing or snail-mailing it to us.

Also remember, we receive many more applicants than we can accommodate in our training class. We defer some of those applicants to our next class. Also we have learned than many wonderful people do not necessarily make successful neutral mediators, so applicants will be interviewed by staff and assessed for the program.


Can a mediator talk to anyone about what happens in mediation?
The mediators can talk about NOTHING that happened in the specific mediation in which they mediate.  Mediation is a confidential process; everything said and every note taken in mediation is confidential between the mediators and the parties (and their agents).  By agreement, the mediator is free to discuss the specifics of a mediation with CMC staff and with his or her co-mediator.  Confidentiality is one of THE most important features of mediation.  Our ethical rules require that we honor confidences.  Mental health workers, attorneys, and medical health staff abide by requirements for confidentiality. Volunteer mediators do also.

Laws in Tennessee also create confidentiality.  By law, a mediator at CMC may not be called as a witness in any subsequent lawsuit.  Mediation notes or work product may not be used in litigation, unless the parties agree.

Parties understand that information about harm to a child, elder, or disabled person must be disclosed by law.  CMC mediators receive training in how to handle such situations in a careful, safe way.
When is the next CMC basic mediation training?
We offer at least one basic training sessions each year.  Our mid-winter training is a special collaboration with the UT College of Law Mediation Clinic, combining our community trainees with second and third year law students.  We use our seasoned volunteer mediators as coaches, and always have special presentations.