Restorative Justice Circles, congruent with evidence-based trauma support treatments.

The training title:

Understanding and Treating Traumatized Youth: An Integrated, Evidence-Based Approach

 The training was provided by Cross Country Education (www.CrossCountryEducation.com).

We learned that trauma treatment has 3 phases (originated by Judith Herman).  The first phase is Safety & Stabilization.  One technique was to use the senses to calm and ground, touch, for example was giving the young person something to hold, squishy, cold, prickly.

I immediately thought of the safety established in Circle, and how some students gravitate to the squishy, playful talking pieces.  Safety is when the enviroment is free from threats.  Circles ground us with an opening, and predictability.  We know how this works, it is structured with a talking piece, and the guidelines/values for how we will relate.  Everyone makes a committment to those values.  We know people will be trying to do their best.

I realized that the squishy ball, the playful talking pieces work as well as any.  Sometimes we have fun, stretching and shaking the green fringe ball other times, you forget the person is even holding a toy.  You forget because you are so drawn into the sharing.  Youth consistently out share, what adults would have expected.  If that adult is unfamiliar with Circle.  Even in all the Circles I have been part of, sometimes I am amazed at the disclosure.

This ties into the 2nd evidence based strategy congruent with Restorative Justice, storytelling.  We learned how storytelling helps move the trauma in your brain.  From non-language reptilian center, to the cortex area that includes language. 

I have an ego and I was enjoying the training because it was reinforcing.  The day before I was telling a speaker about his amygdala, being the shape of almonds!  He said mine might be almonds, but his are peas!  We shared a laugh, but he understood my explanation of sharing his story. 

In 2009 trainer Frida Rundell, Ph.D. gave us almonds, and explained our amygdala and I STILL have those very almonds!  I was at the IIRP conference and the session was sharing how restorative justice changes the brain!  I thought about “change of behavior, by a change of brain“!  I’ve stuck with change of heart!

Did you know trauma can make our DNA express itself differently?  It is called epigenetic changes.  Scientists stressed a pregnant rat enough that her pups were born with gray fur (instead of white).  I think about the trauma of domestic violence.  I am motivated to try to bring the healing components of restorative justice to survivors.

I am also a bit skeptical about all this pressure and emphasis on “evidence-based”.  Common sense should prevail.  We don’t have “evidence” of a higher power – however we know that can have a huge impact on people.  Can we create studies that help us?  I think yes.  Can we generalize that what evidence worked in New York City will work in Africa, just because it is “evidence-based”?  It frustrates me.

We put all this stock in the evidence.  The DSM (diagnostic Statistical Manual) is THE book, that gives you the criteria for mental health.  The book has a V -code for Bereavement – apparently if it lasts more than 2 months, you have a problem.  Really?  I mean really?  It seems to me we all know, it takes more than 2 months.  I get that people develop symptoms that become issues.  My point is that we all KNOW it takes more than 2 months.  If we rely exclusively on evidence based, we dismiss our common sense, our hard-earned professional wisdom and we aren’t helping each other as humans.  I prefer the model blogged on here.