The Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Collaborative (CHSFC) is a community based organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people in Washington D.C. It uses restorative justice interventions and provides three basic levels of programs for the community: family group conferencing, youth violence prevention, and work training and jobs for adults. Solution-focused brief therapy principles guide all programs. CHSFC also provides capacity building and training for other agencies.

From June 29 to July 2, 2010 CHSFC sponsored a training institute for people to learn how to apply solution-focused brief therapy (SF) to a variety of social problems including how restorative interventions can be provided more effectively with SF.

Institute participants included probation officers, social workers, therapists, case managers and others from D.C., Florida, Canada, New York and Hawai’i. Yvonne Dolan, Peter Dejong, Penny Griffin, director of CHSFC, Cynthia Hansen, myself, and others from CHSFC provided training. Most of us met years ago through our friendship and work with the late Insoo Kim Berg, a co-founder of solution-focused brief therapy.

Penny Griffith reminded us how importation it is to continue learning no matter what level we’re at and I learned some great lessons at the institute. Besides learning how to better help people shift from problem thinking, blaming and complaining by using solution-focused language, which helps us specify what we want and how we might achieve our goals, I learned even more from the engaging speakers at the institute.

One inspirational person who has worked with the collaborative for years, and who appreciates the simple joy of having a job and doing it well, said that, “Having a solid breakfast every morning with family is the best way to start the day.” While many of us have heard how important family dinners are for binding relationships, this was the first time I heard anyone recommend breakfast.

Penny Griffith also reminded us how important it is to appreciate the moment and the value of mindfulness. Poet and writer Mark Nepo says it beautifully in The Book of Awakening: Having the Life you Want by Being Present to the Life that you Have:

Despite all our noble efforts to reach some treasured peak—be it a dream of wealth or love—we carry the summit within. And it is always the effort and exhaustion—the very journey itself—that opens the view which is everywhere. For the summit is not so much arrived at, as we are worn open to it. ~ Mark Nepo