Welcome to the first blog of Circles of Care website. My presence on social media is not new – I have been registered on counselling and therapy sites for individual and couples counselling for years, but this is my first blog page written under Creating Circles of Care project, which is part of a trauma and resiliency informed consultancy.
I would like to start by thanking artist and creator of my site, Sam Wells, with Kyle Davis. Sam designed my CCC logo and with Kyle helped me with website design and establishment and they were invaluable in setting me up to go…
Why the creation of the site and blog writing? I believe that many of our issues – stress, hurt, violence and trauma – are created in community and need to be healed in community. My path in psychology has been crossed by some of the greatest healers in the world, locally and internationally, and I feel blessed to have made so many valuable contacts and attended so many inspiring workshops.
Trauma and resiliency-informed environments
My focus is on creating trauma and resiliency-informed environments for healing and I am particularly drawn to working in groups because we need both personal and relationship healing. These groups work within greater systems of influence, and issues of power and violence need to be considered at every level as structures, programmes and cultures are adapted and reconsidered.
Workforce development in the circles of care are part of a wider programe which needs to include elements of leadership, training and services. Circles of care can be created at all levels of the organisation and community. I consider my private practice counselling part of working individually and then in groups with families, couples and professional supervision. My organisational work has been mainly in schools for over 10 years, and I have trained psychologists, social workers, staff, teachers and learners in a variety of settings.
I understand that each context is unique and I encourage participants to be their own creators of what happens in the circles. We need culturally appropriate and sensitive activities, and working in these circles means creating your own resource kit. My vision is that each school starts with a resource toolkit, designed by each teacher, and that eventually schools in metros will share these resources, ending up with whole districts having access to what helps alleviate stress, prevent burnout and encourage trauma-informed behaviour in classrooms and wider school contexts, including family settings.
My greatest teaching site has been the Ottery Youth Care and Education Centre, which is the subject of my book: Triumph over trauma and tribulations (Johnson, in press). As a participant researcher and consultant to the centre I have been in a priveleged position to walk with the teachers and staff on a weekly or bi-monthly basis with their challenges and philosophical understanding of what it means to be a model for managing high-behaviourally challenged learners. I have been deeply saddened by the historical trauma of the centre, but truly inspired by the efforts of both learners and staff to create an ethos of restorative care.
What exactly is restorative care, you may ask. The word “restorative” is commonly linked to justice, meaning that criminals are connected with their victims to make reparation rather than suffer the consequences of retributive justice, which involves punishment. Sometimes restorative justice is practised in a retributive justice setting, such as a prison. Restorative care practices are increasingly recognized for building strength and self-confidence, encouraging those needing care to become motivated and to develop life goals. Restorative practices focus on restoring and building relationships between individuals through dialogue, expression of feelings, as well as strengthening community social connections (International Institute for Restorative Practices, 2016).
Fields such as scholarship, research, graduate education and professional development are covered, as well as restorative justice, which provides tertiary prevention after the problem has occured. The systemic use of informal restorative practices creates a positive milieu, an environment described by Wachtel (2013) as fostering responsibility, awareness and empathy, rather than relying on punishment and sanctions.
In our circles, we create caring safe places where restorative care can be experienced, practised and learnt. Sometimes these caring environments in trauma-informed schools may seem at odds with the outcomes based focus of learning, but more and more schools are coming to the realisation that you cannot separate empathy, or compassionate understanding, from cognitive tasks. An awareness of trauma and resiliency focused practices is central to this improvement of learning outcomes.
I believe there is a need for expanding Creating Circles of Care into businesses and NGOs, where organisations are suffering from multiple traumas, such as continuous and historical traumas, and need to repair past damage through meaningful interpersonal connections.
International Institute for Restorative Practices. 2016. Defining restorative. http://www.iirp.edu/imges/pdf/Defining-restorative_Nov-2016 pdf
Johnson, S. (in press). Triumph over trauma and tribulation: Care of vulnerable youth at a SA state centre. Cape Town: Amazon.
Wachtel, T. 2013. Dreaming of a new reality: How restorative practices reduce crime and violence, improve relationships and strengthen civil society. Bethlehem, PA: The Piper’s Press.