Healing Circles

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General Circle Format Prep Sheet

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What to Keep in Mind:

A reoccurring group should always revisit the guidelines and values even if just briefly. While it can be tempting to skip the guidelines and values round, it is important that you do not unless you are in a group that has been meeting in a circle for a while and have covered values in previous circles. This format can be amended depending on the amount of time or topic. 

The 7 Steps of Holding Circle

1. Opening

2. Introduction of Talking Piece & Guidelines

3. Check-in/Icebreaker

4. Values

5. Discussion Rounds

6. Check Out

7. Closing


Purpose: To create a special or sacred space where everyone will come together to share in ways we ordinarily don’t have the opportunity to do. Also, to ground everyone, set a positive tone for participants to transition into the circle process. An opening purpose is for everyone to bring their ‘best selves’ to the circles.

Examples of an opening: Poems, quotes, guided meditation or breathing exercise, song chant, etc.

Suggested Language:

Opening: "We have come together today to learn more about one another and to be together in a way which will make our community stronger, closer and safer."

Guide the process: “We ask you for suggestions for shared guidelines for our circle.”

Promote Equality: “We all have important experiences and something to offer.”

General Respect: “We are different, but we all have something to learn from each other.”

Share Responsibility: “We all have a responsibility for finding solutions.”

Encourage New Ideas: “Every idea is a good one. We work together to find solutions.”

Seek Solutions that Benefit Everyone: “Can we find a way to meet the needs of all involved today?”

Maintain Positive Perspective: “This is difficult work, and at the same time, we are moving toward a positive outcome."

Introduction of Talking Piece

Purpose: To create an equitable environment for sharing. Everyone gets a chance to speak or have the right to pass. For those that do not have the talking piece, it is an opportunity to actively listen to the speaker. Sometimes the talking piece may be suspended to encourage spontaneous sharing or brainstorming.

Example of a talking piece: Sacred or meaningful objects that community members can relate to or something that has meaning to someone or is relevant to the topic to be discussed. (Stuffed animal, rock, stone, etc.)

Suggested language: "The person holding the talking piece is the only one who may speak. Everyone else in the circle is actively listening and trying not to spend time thinking about what they are going to say. The talking piece usually moves in a circular format (clockwise or counterclockwise). Every person has the opportunity to speak and the right to pass if they choose. Even though someone may pass, they must still be present and participate."


Purpose: To allow circle participants to identify and agree upon shared guidelines for the circle.

Core circle guidelines:

(1) Respect the talking piece

(2) Speak from your heart

(3) Listen with your heart

(4) Speak with respect

(5) Listen with respect

(6) Remain in circle

(7) Honor privacy

Suggested guideline language: "Here are the core circle guidelines. Are there any other guidelines you would like to add?" Pass the talking piece around the circle and chart any other guidelines.


Purpose: To invite participants to talk about how they are feeling on physical, mental, or emotional levels at the moment.

Suggested language: "How are you doing?" Or any questions to center and or warm the group up.


Purpose: To allow circle participants to identify and agree upon personal and shared group values which everyone will honor during the circle. Note: the traditional way is to ask people to bring their “best selves” to the discussion. Values we adopt remind us now to ‘be’ in circle. Values are the foundation to doing things in a “good” way. Respect, honesty, trustworthiness, courage, are examples of such values.

Discussion Rounds

Purpose: Choose a topic that is appropriate for the group to discuss. If this is a new group and you are just getting to know each other, you may ask people to share what is important to them about being in this community. A good prompting question for a circle will allow people to speak from a personal perspective about something that relates to the group. After asking a question that allows people to tell a story, you may ask a question that encourages people to speak about the issue or reason they were brought into the circle today (community building, celebration, general check-in, current event etc.)

Check Out

Purpose: To invite participants to express how they are feeling at this moment as the circle is about to end.

Suggested language: "Share one word about how they are feeling at the end of the circle or about what they most appreciated about the process."


Purpose: To close the circle with intention and allow participants to re-enter the world and acknowledge the work done in circle.

Examples of a closing: Poems, quotes, do a guided meditation or breathing exercise, songs, or chant etc. You may suggest that everyone stand shoulder to shoulder and take three deep breathes together. You may also read a short poem or quote and with and expression of gratitude to all present for their participation.

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