What is a healing circle and why are they important? Circles are probably the most known restorative justice tool. When individuals think about restorative justice, they often think about individuals in conflict sitting in a circle with their communities and talking it out with a facilitator (a circle-keeper).
That is one of many modalities of facilitating a restorative justice process that we use at the Restorative Justice Coalition. However, we also believe that Healing Circles are a fundamental tool even when there isn't a specific conflict or harm to address!
Circles can be dedicated to a specific trauma or issue (i.e. a sexual assault survivors circle, a child abuse survivors circle, a religious trauma abuse survivors circle.) They also can be peer-based and specific, such as a circle for Black women, for gay men, or for disabled immigrants. Likewise, circles can be trauma or issue specific and also peer based, for example, a Black women's sexual assault survivor healing circle or a disabled survivors of child abuse healing circle. Those are only examples!
Circles can also be general circles. For our members, we offer up to one general healing circle per month (but we only do so if at least two members request a need). In a general circle, there is no specific topic. Instead, you speak on anything and everything that you want to discuss. It could be a trauma, confusion, conflict, pain, or anything that you feel you need to be heard on.
Are these group therapy sessions? Not in the least. Your circle-keeper is not a licensed medical professional and absolutely nothing said in a circle should be construed as medical or legal advice.
So, do we give each other advice then? Absolutely not. There is no cross-talk permitted in our circles. You speak only from your perspective. Others in the circle may relate to you or they may zone out completely while you are talking--you'll never know. The healing elements are two-fold: you get to name the harms happening in your life AND sometimes, you receive a sense of community or wisdom from a stranger in the circle. You NEVER know when you will hear something you did not know you needed to hear.
We also have accountability circles for people needing to own the harms they caused.