Child Family and Community Circles

Child Family and Community Circles

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Last Update: April 2, 2012

Working therapeutically with complex child and family difficulties within a wider circle of participant community members - producing more sustainable outcomes.

Working with facilitators from the International Association for Process Oriented Psychology (IAPOP) we are interested to promote and develop a model for working therapeutically and in a community context with complex difficulties experienced by children and families. A model has been developed by Dr Gary Reiss and colleagues in Oregon USA in which children and their families work on family issues in a circle within a wider circle of participating members of the community and/or extended family members. This approach is producing deeper and more sustainable outcomes as the involvement and responsiveness of the wider community appears to support and enhance the family wellbeing.

Type: citizen sector

The Problem

Too many therapeutic approaches address the need at an individualised or local level without addressing the social and systemic pressures on families. We believe this model is needed worldwide. The essential importance of the support of the wider community for family change seems to be better understood in indigenous cultures throughout the world. This project is initially being focussed on the European Union countries.


A teenage boy has been experiencing very serious abdominal symptoms taking him out of school for over two years. His family are very supportive and loving, however there does appear to be a strong link with his symptoms and his father's recurrent depression. Many professionals have been involved with the family from the medical, social work and therapeutic services. The family agree to come and work in a community setting with local people and professionals involved. Dr Gary Reiss facilitates and works with the boy's tendency to emotionally swallow his father's moods and difficulties. The work uses the analogy to a computer game and the boy is invited to describe what is entering his body emotionally. He describes it as a huge ball of energy. He is then invited to imagine only letting through a very small portion of this energy, and to filter out the rest. The father is also involved in considering his son's symptoms in the light of his own depression and difficulties, and how he might live his life in a more fulfilling fashion. After this work, the group around the boy and family are invited to share their own experiences relating to the work in the middle. They share a wide array of responses which serve to support the family work. Within a few weeks the boy is for the first time full-time attending school, and the family are greatly relieved.

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