My background is in counseling. The therapeutic alliance was important, often highlighted at the most important component for change. Positive relationships between therapist and client brought about the most positive and long-lasting changes.
As social workers, teachers, probation officers the professional alliance is the relationship from professional to client. Restorative Justice professionals/providers/specialists/facilitators also need to be aware of the role alliance can play in helping people address issues of crime and conflict.
The unique role a restorative justice professional plays it to be aligned with restorative justice philosophy and not to a person on a particular side of an issue (victim or offender). Circle process allows for us to be equally and uniquely aligned with people.
Teachers can sit with students, facilitate a Circle and focus on the learning community or each students relationships to the subject matter or classroom environment. No other form gives you the sense of “we are all in this together” like forming a Circle and facing each other.
Circles help create alliance, because they bring out a place inside of us that is common to everyone else. The equality sets up a safety, the values give us guidelines. The best, most productive inner dialogue you might have gets to be spoken out loud.
I was doing a presentation on social justice to a group of students. In that group, a few students that had some Circle experience. I spontaneously asked if those students that had participated would be willing to all stand up and offer the rest of the group some feedback. I had not prepared the students, or even warned them about this. That is the confidence I have in Circle process, to allow students to share their experiences with others.
A few students in the audience stood up. I had them share one by one, going from the left of the room to the right. As the last student started to sit down, another young man stood up. It struck me that he waited until the last moment to identify himself. It occurred to me I asked a great deal from these students, to stand up identified, to take turns explaining something without preparation. I learned a great deal from what this young man offered.
He said that when you speak in Circle, you are so comfortable, the way it is set up is so cool, you can start to talk to people. He shared that in Circle he said things about himself that he didn’t even know.
That seems odd, that you would say something about yourself that you didn’t even know. Yet, I completely identified with his experience, I have experienced that and seen it happen other times (in Circle). I think it is exploring your inner landscape in the presence and safety of others. These times when people share deeply about an experience or reflect on someone elses story is a place where you see the change happening. I believe it is alliance between us as human beings that allows this simultaneous exploration and discovery. Without it, how could we ever become better people.
I encourage you to sit in Circle – in professional relationships. Align with those you work with around relationship values.