Who is it for?
The rpg (reconciliation process group) model has two primary applications. One is treatment for generational social/historical trauma and the other is for the treatment of individual relational trauma stemming from harmful or abusive relationships, using a group format for treatment in both cases. The main distinction between the two applications is determined by who the rpg group participants are. When the participants are in groups divided by social issues (such as racism, prejudices of all kinds, poverty issues, sexism, or from other social injustices) and who want to sit down together and talk, the application can be for the treatment of social trauma. When the group is composed of individuals who are trauma survivors (those whose perpetrators are not present or taking part) the application is group treatment for personal relational trauma. Trauma can have its roots in family of origin childhood abuse, or from a primary relationship that was abusive such as in domestic violence, sexual abuse suffered as a child or as an adult, or the trauma suffered by other overwhelming losses and abuse. In both cases (social or individual traumas), the goal is healing and reconciliation. The former is reconciliation between social groups in conflict, the latter is the internal reconciliation experienced by an individual when healing occurs from past relational trauma.
What is a reconciliation process group (rpg)?
1. What happened?
2. What still needs to heal?
3. What do we do now?
the rpg model
is designed around 6 healing principles structured in a system of 3 axes. (See diagram) The principles are in pairs.
- truth and listening (on axis one)
- change and integration (on axis two)
- dignity and unity (on axis three)
Each principle in the model has an internal tension to be resolved to balance the system. For example, truth (north pole of axis one) is able to be shared when the tension between acknowledgement and denial is resolved in a positive manner–that is, the truth is acknowledged, not denied. The second principle, listening (south pole of axis one), can happen when constructive dialogue wins out over the isolation of people drawing battle lines. The tension between dialogue and isolation is thereby positively resolved. Axis one is balanced when truth and listening successfully happen. So the process continues until the system of principles is balanced on each axis of the model–meaning all the healing principles have been activated by resolving each polar tension positively.
Introduction to rpg: The reconciliation process group (rpg) is a structured group format designed to support the healing process of traumatic relational wounds. The rpg approach to trauma work is broken down into 3 phases, the rpg model itself being embedded in the second phase of this overall approach. The rpg model is meant to be the structure for creating a safe environment for a working therapy “process” group. Each individual member in the group goes through all three phases. Phase-One gives the group members time to know each other, and to learn effective tools of communication necessary for Phase-Two. Phase-Two is the actual sharing and processing of the story, or narrative. In Phase Two roadblocks to healing are processed. Phase-Three reinforces and sustains the progress made in healing traumatic relational wounds.
The rpg model starts with a “norming” time in the life-cycle of the group. Phase-one is focused on the tools and skills necessary for doing the hard work of healing. Learning communication skills, developing the group norms (the group’s “culture”), and learning core rpg principles are examples of focuses in Phase-one.
The rpg model is designed around a system of axes, as illustrated above. Phase-two engages with the axes that structure the healing process (and is the actual “working phase” of the group life cycle). Each out-of-balance axis must be brought into balance in order to build the foundation for healing and lasting reconciliation. Attention is given to each axis in sequence:
Axis-One (the principles of Truth and Listening) begins with the need for acknowledgement of the full truth. Acknowledgement is in tension with denial. Acknowledgement verses denial is the first internal tension to be resolved in the task of balancing the system. Then as the truth is heard a pressure is built to have meaningful dialogue (the principle of Listening). Truth (the narrative belonging to the person speaking) is now being balanced with the principle of Listening. But active listening has a tension of its own. The tendency is to isolate from each other when what we hear is uncomfortable. Dialogue verses isolation is the second polar tension to resolve on axis-one. When truth-telling and active listening result in appropriate dialogue without denial impeding the conversation then Axis-One finds balance. However, balance on one axis creates a need for balance in other parts of the system.
Axis-Two contains the principles of Change and Integration and begins with grieving. Grieving is the natural response to actively listening to the truth, the narrative of the wound. Axis-two will remain out of balance until grieving is joined by integration (an active acceptance and restructuring of the self that leads to old behaviors being replaced with new ones that better match who we really are). This model includes explanations of functional grief (described elsewhere). It is the freedom that is found in functional grief the sets integration into motion, opening a doorway to seeing the parts and pieces of how we’re put together and restructuring them into a more congruent self. This brings us to the final axis in the rpg model.
Axis-three begins with principle of Dignity found through forgiveness. Rpg sees forgiveness as a core healing factor for the forgiver, and a powerful means of securing an internal sense of personal dignity for the forgiver. People suffering from trauma have often been robbed of their sense of dignity. Forgiveness, then, becomes the doorway to restored dignity. Forgiveness is its own process. However once begun, forgiveness seeks to find appropriate expressions and outlets. Forgiveness can lead the way to a powerful solidarity, the basis on which we come together for a common cause. If the final tension of peace verses conflict is successfully navigated (activating the final principle, Unity), a redirection of energy that once fueled “war” on many levels now, instead, empowers a unity grounded in personal peace.
Phase-three shifts from using the rpg model and focuses on how to apply the insights and changes gained in phase-two while using the model. The character of the impact we have in our spheres of influence is shaped by our choices. In the ideal, the ideas put forward on this website will help create a shared personal and social narrative that fosters justice and reconciliation in a practical (and sustainable) way. The rpg forum approach to healing will hopefully lead to new activities, skills, and support for ongoing healing and growth in each of our lives and in our communities.
These three phases comprise the structure of a comprehensive reconciliation program. The 3-axial rpg model (embedded in Phase Two, illustrated above) is used to guide the working phase of the group’s life cycle. An rpg group is formed with the agreed-upon goal of healing unresolved and broken relationships. Phase-One is instructive. Phase-Two is the actual processing work of unresolved relational trauma. Phase-Three is used to develop strategies and goals to sustain ongoing healing and growth. The rpg approach is founded on the belief that justice and reconciliation are linked together in a natural and healing synergism, and that injustice (under “terms” see transformative restorative justice) is a source of human trauma. This is true for a single individual or an entire collective of people subjected to the abuses of injustice. To protect the healing process, which is at times a vulnerable one, it is often necessary to have effective facilitation combined with personal intentionality. This 3-phase approach, with it’s embedded rpg model, seeks to provide a durable structure for the journey.