PUBLISHED: 4:07 PM on Wednesday, December 19, 2007
SEARHC holds community talking circle in Juneau
The weekly community talking circle held by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Behavioral Health Department will switch its meeting night to Mondays starting Jan. 7.

The community talking circle will meet from 6:15 to 8 p.m. on Mondays at the SEARHC Behavioral Health Department offices, Suite 109, Room 121, in the SEARHC Annex (same building as SEARHC Dental) at 3200 Hospital Dr. The talking circles are free and open to all Juneau residents and visitors.

One of the purposes of the community talking circle is to connect with culture and traditions, so they start with smudging and frequently a circle member will sing and drum.

The talking circle guidelines are reviewed at the beginning, and they emphasis confidentiality, speaking and listening from the heart, with each person getting a chance to speak while holding the eagle feather or other object that represents a talking stick.

Everyone is given the same respect and attention when they speak, and each talking circle has an introduction round followed by four more rounds of talking.

"A talking circle is a spiritual, peaceful and safe place to find a balance for yourself and gain support," SEARHC Community Family Service Worker Norene Otnes said.

SEARHC Mental Health Therapist Cathy Wellwood said some of the comments they've heard include, "I felt uplifted by the words of others, and hoped that my words offered something positive to others in the circle." "I felt like I wasn't alone." "The circle is a safe place to share what's in your heart and mind." "I can share what's important to me." "Everyone is equal and everyone belongs." "I always learn from what I hear. I always hear something that helps me with my life and things that I'm dealing with." And "I could relate to everyone in the circle."

The community talking circle will meet Mondays starting on Jan. 7. For more information, please call Norene Otnes at 463-6670 or Cathy Wellwood at 364-4472.