Category Archives: Counseling

Campus Icarus


Campus Icarus groups consist of students who see a need on their campus to organize a community committed to expanding the dialogue around student mental health, providing peer support alternatives to school counseling center services, developing activist campaigns, creating art, and engaging in nontraditional academic exploration of “psy”-subjects.

Click for Student Organizing Materials


. . . In the logic of our modern world, whether it’s in the farmer’s field or in the high school classroom, diversity is inefficient and hard to manage. Powerful people figured out awhile time ago that it’s a lot easier to control things if everyone’s eating the same foods, listening to the same music, reading the same books, watching the same TV shows, and speaking the same language. This is what we call the monocult, and while everyone is supposedly more and more connected by this new “global culture,” we’re more and more isolated from each other. Things feel more and more empty, and so many of us end up lonely and rootless, wondering why everything feels so wrong . . .

. . . We believe that people do not belong in grids and boxes of rootless lonely monocultures. Humans are adaptable creatures, and while a lot of people learn to adapt, some of us can’t handle the modern world no matter how many psych drugs or years of school or behavior modification programs we’ve been put through. Any realistic model of mental health has to begin by accepting that there is no standard model for a mind and that none of us are single units designed for convenience and efficiency. No matter how alienated you are by the world around you, no matter how out of step or depressed and disconnected you might feel: you are not alone. Your life is supported by the lives of countless other beings, from the microbes in your eyelashes to the men who paved your street. The world is so much more complicated and beautiful than it appears on the surface.

There are so many of us out here who feel the world with thin skin and heavy hearts, who get called crazy because we’re too full of fire and pain, who know that other worlds exist and aren’t comfortable in this version of reality. We’ve been busting up out of sidewalks and blooming all kind of misfit flowers for as long as people have been walking on this Earth. So many of us have access to secret layers of consciousness — you could think of us like dandelion roots that gather minerals from hidden layers of the soil that other plants don’t reach. If we’re lucky we share them with everyone on the surface – because we feel things stronger than the other people around us, a lot of us have visions about how things could be different, why they need to be different, and it’s painful to keep them silent. Sometimes we get called sick and sometimes we get called sacred, but no matter how they name us we are a vital part of making this planet whole.

from the Local Group organizing manual


Social Work Podcasts

About the Social Work Podcast

The Social Work Podcast provides information on all things social work, including direct practice (both clinical and community organizing), research, policy, education… and everything in between. Join your host, Jonathan Singer, LCSW, as he explores topics near and dear to every social worker’s heart. The purpose of the podcast is to present information in a user-friendly format. Although the intended audience is social workers, the information will be useful to anyone in a helping profession (including psychology, nursing, psychiatry, counseling, and education). The general public might also find these podcasts useful as a way of learning what social workers understand to be important. If you have ideas for future podcasts, please send an email to jonathan at socialworkpodcast dot com.

Journal of Indigenous Voices in Social Work

About the Journal

Welcome to the homepage of the Journal of Indigenous Voices in Social Work (JIVSW), which is dedicated to improving social work practice and expanding knowledge relevant to indigenous peoples and the communities in which they live. JIVSW is a peer-reviewed journal which is published exclusively in open-access electronic form. Articles published in JIVSW will serve readers and contributors who work and live in indigenous and academic social work practice communities. Intended to reflect these diverse communities and perspectives, the editorial board, special issues editors, and reviewers include: university educators and researchers, elders and leaders of indigenous communities, community-based practitioners, and policy-makers.

This first special issue contains papers which were presented at a conference which took place at Makaha, Hawaiʻi in July 2007. The conference was entitled “Indigenous Voices in Social Work: Not lost in Translation”.

A word from the editors

The publication of the Journal of Indigenous Voices in Social Work is a part of a larger process and continuum that brings to light new paradigms and conceptions of social work practice and research. The process began with the first Indigenous Social Work conference in Makaha, Hawai`i in 2007. The gathering of indigenous social workers from regions throughout the Pacific and North America was timely given the mounting interest regionally and globally. Global climactic change and the threat of natural disasters, growing interest in ethnoecology and biomedical solutions, and spiritual depravity in the industrialized world drive this growing interest. The profession is finally coming to terms with the non-viability of traditional social work practice across cultures and the need to find or develop fundamentally different approaches to human healing and wellbeing.

Western epistemology has long been the dominant source for finding social solutions. It is a reflection of a history of colonial imposition that transformed into a post-modern emphasis on the universality of human behavior. As a result, localized practices drawn from alternative notions of human process and psyche have been largely ignored and with unconfirmed effectiveness.

There is immense power and control associated with normalized knowledge. To make room for Indigenous voices in social work, the academic/research complex will have to be reconsidered. The publication of this journal offers a forum for voices that have not been heard and a starting point for shifting schools of thought. We are hoping that out of this effort grows a different sense of what has been, thus potentiating new visions of what might be. Our vision is to rally the collective intelligence and passions of scholars committed to indigenous social work into a productive, less derivative, more dignified approach to enabling and empowering indigenous communities. Perhaps it could be a template for something new in the world.

The Journal is published through Le’a Publications which was established through a generous gift from Sally Lampson Kanehe. Her passion for the creation and dissemination of indigenous knowledge is vital to the profession of social work and the wellbeing of the people to whom she is deeply committed.

Jon K. Matsuoka
Peter Mataira

A Description of Open Space Technology


by Lisa Heft

What is Open Space Technology?

This is a way to format a group meeting, retreat or conference that generates communication, collaboration, innovation, and other solutions to challenges and transitions. When your organization or community has a complex problem, you are completely out of ideas regarding a solution, you have a diversity of people that you can bring to the process, and the time for resolving this situation was yesterday — this is a great time for Open Space Technology (OST). Group members emerge from the process invigorated, refreshed, and proud of their individual and collective accomplishments.

Committees, task forces and design teams can take weeks, months and even years to accomplish their goal – or in some cases simply to define their goal. Much of this same work can be accomplished by holding an Open Space. A half- or one-day Open Space can help people to quickly bring forth emerging issues and opportunities and to build mutual understandings and networking; a 2.5 day Open Space includes issues, opportunities and action planning, resulting in a complete written report of the proceedings for all participants plus identification and prioritization of next steps.

Open Space is an interactive process — participants meet in concurrent and overlapping mini-discussions around a theme or an issue, across departmental, hierarchal or historically opposite lines. The cross-pollination of moving from group to group and topic to topic in a non-linear way allows participants to jump quickly from familiar ways of thinking into innovation and action.

The use of Open Space Technology has been effective since the mid-1980’s in a diversity of settings, cultures and countries. The method has been used by communities working towards peace, chemists designing new polymers, tribal and governmental leaders planning land use, community advocates and local government designing literacy programs, conference organizers holding conferences in this format, architects designing pavilions for the Olympics, an entire town having a simultaneous discussion town meeting, and community workers helping communities rebuild and heal after times of war. This tool can be utilized by groups of 5 to over 2000 and the dynamics and the results are always the same: input from stakeholders at all levels, new ways of thinking and working, large amounts of work done rapidly, bringing perceived competitors together on issues and projects, organizational flexibility, interdepartmental or intercommunity teamwork, a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of passion and energy for the challenges ahead.

Guidelines for an Open Space Meeting

The rules are simple, although setting up the parameters for a meeting or conference in Open Space is based on the theories of complexity, self-organization and open systems. Do you know how sometimes when you go to a conference or a meeting, the best ideas, networking, brainstorming and deal making happen during the coffee breaks? Open Space Technology is designed to simulate that natural way people find each other and share ideas in all different cultures and countries. It is also based on the understanding that there is a great amount of wisdom and experience in any gathered group of people – that we are all ‘experts’ and can all contribute – a true democratic process.

It all starts with a circle of chairs, without a pre-designed agenda. The group sets their own agenda by identifying issues and topics that have heart and meaning for them; topics for which they have passion and interest and for which they are willing to host a discussion group. Small group discussions happen throughout the day, with participants moving from group to group whenever they feel that they can no longer learn or contribute to a discussion, or when they feel drawn to another topic.

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What does it mean to “hold space?”


What does it mean to “hold space” for emerging social technologies, like Non-violent communication, Consensus decision making, Agile Teamwork, and Open Space Technology gatherings? What skills do we need to do so? What happens if we don’t choose to hold intention and attention around the social spaces that we create?

I interview Diana Larsen, of FutureWorks Consulting,  a world-class facilitator in teamwork and social technologies (and coincidentally, my mother). Together we explore the world of “holding space”.

icon for podpress Holding Space With Diana Larsen – COMC Podcast Episode 22 [59:46m]: Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download