MSW and CASAC (Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor) with the Practitioners Research and Scholarship Institute (PRASI)
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
A: You give people an opportunity to express their conflict and let them know that it is natural, first of all, but give them ways, a safe environment, where you can have a group leader or facilitator of the group, where one person can say what their charge is or what someone did to them. And let them talk about how it made them feel and let them talk through what kinds of things they expect from the other person.
Q: By charge you mean ?
A: Charge in the terms of "you disrespected me." That's an accusation. You accuse someone of doing something, but you have to explain it. It becomes therapeutic because now someone is talking about their feelings. Talking about engaging sometimes an authority figure, so they are engaging someone they wouldn't normally. It's therapeutic, but also socially regenerative because you are learning how to do something differently, not just to relate to your feelings, but to face conflict and deal with the real issues rather than running behind the drug, using the drug like if someone pissed me off, I'm going to go get high. Rather than that you are really engaging in the real problem so you are creating the possibility of a real solution rather than always taking it on yourself. So having a group with a facilitator, conflict resolution becomes being able to say what someone did to you, how it made you feel and what you expect from the other person. The other person can say things from their side, but because you're doing it in a group therapy context, it's allowing other people to add to it. It's not just what you see, what you feel and what you think -- be it the person who was the aggressor or the victim who thought themselves to be the victim of aggression -- but you get in other people to give their opinions. One comes from the group more informed than when they came in because you have all these other opinions. It's really a mixed model of conflict resolution and also group therapy at the same time.
Q: Interesting. Would you have the victim and the aggressor, or I guess the two people in conflict in the same room at the same time?
A: Yes, they are right there in the same room. So one person would say, "This is what you did to me. This is how it made me feel. This is what I want you to do about it." And the other person would say their side. Because you have a facilitator, who is the mediator, the mediator is the one who is guiding the discussion and guiding the exchange so both parties can be heard and be validated.
Q: In the meantime people are saying, "Hmm, that's interesting because from my perspective you did this that could have caused him to " You know, start to make some causality links and start to figure out what is going on. What about the reconnecting with your culture component? Where does that come into play in a program like the one you are talking about?
A: That would come in, in having classes about culture awareness. You give them the history of their people and their contributions to civilization. One of the ways oppression works is to remove people and make them a-historical. You make them a-historical, a-political and a-visionary. You try to remove the past so you don't have a historical chronology to relate things to and you don't understand why things are the way they are now. You make a people a-political by not getting them involved, by not seeing a necessity to be political and get involved in things going on around you. If you don't have any control over now or today, how could you possibly be in control over tomorrow? So tomorrow becomes a vision, but if you don't have a vision of tomorrow, that makes you hopeless and makes you willing to do anything to make you feel better in the moment because you have no other hope. So oppression tries to make a people a-historical, a-political, and a-visionary. So having groups devoted to cultural awareness would give people that perspective of the past and what led up to today. It gives them a sense of what's going on around them and they begin to see how they've been duped and bought into a system with all the myths and they now have allowed themselves to neutralize themselves by not participating in the political process to change reality and therefore the future becomes assuming your position, assuming your role in society to change society, because if you don't change society, all conditions being the same, your children will end up leading the same lives that you've led. And they will be in the same boat. So their children, which is an expression of tomorrow gives them impetus to move forward and face their direct challenges around their addiction and that gives them the force to overcome some of those addictions.