Circle of Support A Restorative Experience for Aquila of Delaware Staff

In January 2020, the Conflict Resolution Program (CRP) partnered with Aquila of Delaware, an organization that provides treatment services to adolescents, adults and families suffering from psychiatric and substance abuse disorders, to provide a restorative justice experience. CRP was asked to facilitate a Dialogue Circle with Aquila’s staff as both an introduction to the circle process and an opportunity to experience it before utilizing it with their youth clients.

Providing Support

CRP designed the Circle process as an opportunity for the staff to reflect on what inspired them to do the work they do, the values they bring to work each day, and the clients or experiences that have had the biggest impact on them. The group shared the ways in which they needed and could provide support to each other everyday. At the end, they expressed their hopes for the teens attending Aquila’s programs.

Twelve staff members participated in the Circle, including mobile, in-clinic and group therapists, and executive staff, whose time in the organization ranged from two months to over twenty years.

After the Circle, staff members expressed that they see the process as not only a beneficial tool for working with the teens and families they serve, but also as a team-building exercise for staff to feel connected and supported in ways that they didn’t before the experience. One staff member hoped the group would continue using Circles and similar activities to connect and share moving forward. 

"It opens doors to support people differently." —Amy Kevis

Lasting Impact

Weeks after the Circle, Amy noted that the Circle has given way to a more understanding and caring work environment. Dana Conklin-Malusa, Aquila's Clinical Supervisor, was grateful for the experience saying, "it was a gift".

"[The Circle] allowed people to be more aware of challenges being faced by individuals or the organization as a whole... It softened our interactions with each other." —Amy Kevis

What’s next?

CRP and Aquila will continue the partnership bring Circles to the teen who attend Aquila’s group therapy sessions. CRP hopes to eventually provide training to the staff so they can design and facilitate the Circles on their own. Amy also sees Circles as a unique opportunity for Aquila staff to provide support to their clients’ caretakers and support systems and provide them with a sense of community and feeling of being understood.

Are you interested in Circles?

If you’re interested in bringing Circles to your group, participating in a Circle, or learning more about our work in restorative justice and conflict resolution, please contact Jessica Velez at jessicav@udel.edu or visit www.bidenschool.udel.edu/ipa/serving-delaware/crp.

If you’re interested in learning more about about Aquila of Delaware and the services they provide, visit www.aquilaofde.com.

Created By
Jessica Velez