Learning Circles: A Tool for Support and Personal Growth

Southcentral Foundation offers many resources to support customer-owners in achieving overall wellness. One important resource offered by SCF is Learning Circles. These are community-centered environments based on the Alaska Native value of sharing story and listening to others share theirs.

Learning Circles were developed to address the need for customer-owners to have more immediate access to behavioral health services, to create supportive communities on a variety of different topics, and provide employees with the opportunity to develop skills and abilities in leading Learning Circles. They are designed for customer-owners who have a desire for personal growth in an area of common interest. Learning Circles provide safe small-group environments for participants to share story and build and strengthen relationships with others in the community.

SCF offers two types of Learning Circles: those that can be attended by anyone on a walk-in basis, and those that need a referral. Both types of circles follow approved curriculum, but there are important differences. Walk-in circles support learning and growth, are non-billable, and are not necessarily run by someone with a clinical or behavioral background (though circle leaders are trained by SCF prior to beginning their role). One example of a walk-in Learning Circle is Lose to Win, a weight management support system that focuses on healthy and active lifestyle changes. Circles that require referral support a treatment plan, are billable, and are run by master-level therapists or skillful clinicians. An example of a circle that requires referral is Family is Sacred, which provides tools for families raising children to promote positive changes in the home and the community.

It is important to note that for Learning Circles to be successful, they require authentic interaction with participants, as well as a level of disclosure from the circle leader. This helps foster an effective therapeutic environment. Circle leaders are full participants in the circles they run, not just observers and facilitators. Although anyone at SCF can lead a Learning Circle with the proper training, SCF has positions dedicated to this, and employees can propose Learning Circles on topics they think would be beneficial for the community.

If you would like more information about Learning Circles at SCF, feel free to contact the SCF Learning Institute. Also, the upcoming Nuka Conference will cover topics related to many different aspects of SCF’s Nuka System of Care, including Learning Circles. For more information and to register for the conference, see here.