Click to read more about this training, in which we demonstrate a live problem solving approach which is based on the active participation of family members.

Course Category


Parents and Carers

Behaviour and relationships

Problem Solving


In this training we demonstrate a live problem solving approach which is based on the active participation of family members.

‘Family Circles’ is an evolving new approach to problem solving with families and is based on our years of family work and the development and use of the Circle of Adults process.

Inspired by our own Parent Solutions work and the Circle of Adults process as well as Family Group Conferencing and other Restorative Interventions we bring you Family Circles.

Essentially the approach involves gathering a family together for a process that is facilitated but majors on the family members offering each other their wisdom and ideas.

The approach is capacity focused, person centred approach to working with families rather than the dominant deficit oriented and ‘medical model’ of viewing and planning for or doing things to families.

This training can be modelled with a group of professionals or better still with a family.

In our work with families we develop the importance of naming stories or theories and seeking linkages and synthesis between what is found out and explored about the family situation and its history. We like participants to sit with the uncertainty, to reflect on the question ‘why’ but without judgement of each other. Deeper reflections may span a whole range of perspectives from ‘within person’ considerations, to situational or systemic possibilities. Health or emotional issues can be reflected on alongside organisational or transactional aspects of what is going on for the family.

The better the shared understanding the better the strategy or actions which emerge from these meetings. Quality hypotheses with a close fit to reality lead to more effective implementation in the real world.

We encourage ‘loose’ thinking, a search for connections, deeper listening, an ‘open mind’, speculation and exploration without moral judgements. From this stance self-reflection as well as reflection on the situation can produce remarkable insights. The quality of theories or new stories generated is directly influenced by family members’ experiences and the models of learning, behaviour and emotion, systems, educational development, change and so on that they have been exposed to. 

Learning Objectives

To provide opportunities for:

  • Shared problem solving in a safe exploratory climate in which the family will find its own solutions.
  • Individuals to reflect on their own actions and strategies
  • An exploration of whole-family processes and their impact
  • Emotional support and shared understandings of issues at a child, parent, family, school and community level.
  • Feed back to each other on issues, ideas and strategies that are agreed to be worth sharing with them.

Who Is It For?

  • Anyone interested in working with families in a way that builds and makes use of their capacities rather than focus on their challenges and difficulties.
  • Social Care teams
  • School staff
  • Community organisers
  • Educational Psychologists

Course Content

  • True family empowerment
  • Deepening shared stories and understandings
  • Facilitating groups
  • Problem solving process
  • Handling family group communication
  • Allowing direct feedback and challenge between participants in a safe way
  • Building relationships


  1. Family members are welcomed: Introductions are carried out, ground rules and aims clarified whilst coffee is drunk.
  2. A recap from the last session is carried out: To follow up developments and reflections after the last meeting.
  3. One issue is selected for the main focus
  4. Issue presentation: The family member who raised the concern is asked questions to tell the ‘story’ of the issue or problem.
  5. Additional questions/information from the group about the problem are gathered:
  6. Ground rules may need to be observed carefully here. Individual participants need to be kept focused and prevented from leaping to premature conclusions or to making ‘helpful’ suggestions about strategy.      
  7. Relationship aspects to the problem are explored. Metaphors and analogies are invited. How would a fly on the wall see your relationship? If you were alone together on a desert island, what would it be like?
  8. Impact of previous relationships/spillage from one relationship to another are explored. Eg what situation they are reminded of? For instance, does this situation remind you of any of those angry but helpless feelings you had with your other son when he was an adolescent? This provides opportunities to reflect on how emotions rub off on other people. The parent feels really frustrated, and on reflection we can see that so does the child
  9. System/Organisation factors (Family system/school and community systems and so on): What aspects help or hinder the problem? For instance, does the pastoral system of the local school provide space, or time and skilled personnel able to counsel this young person and work actively with their parents?
  10. Synthesis. At this stage the Graphic facilitator summarises what they have heard. They then go on to describe linkages and patterns in what they have heard. This can be very powerful. The person doing the graphic work has been able to listen throughout the presentation process and will have been struck by strong messages, emotions and images as they have arisen. The story and meaning of what is happening in the situation may become a little clearer at this point. Typical links may be ‘mirrored emotions’ strong themes such as loss and separation issues, or repeated processes such as actions triggering rejection. This step provides an excellent grounding for the next process of deepening understanding.
  11. What understandings/hypotheses/new stories can we draw out from the above? Developing hypotheses has a scientific background and psychologists have long found this a useful process when thinking about behaviour and emotions. In George Kelly’s words “All behaviour is an experiment” .Staying with uncertainty and not falling into the trap of jumping prematurely onto solutions is definitely valuable in our experience. The better the understanding the ‘better fit’ will be the action and strategies that emerge at the next stage of the meeting. Also this process allows for self reflection and exploration at the level of emotion and actions. The group at this stage has an opportunity to ask ‘why’, a time for deeper reflection. Hypotheses sometimes referred to as ‘theories’ or simply ‘understandings’ can range from reflections as to what a child or teacher is feeling inside, through family dynamics, to aspects of the system or situation that are maintaining or impacting upon the problem situation. The richer and the more varied the theories generated the sounder the likely grasp on the situation. Theories are influenced by family members’ reading, studies and experiences which will include models of behaviour, change and development. The richer and more diverse these are in the family’s experience the more powerful the impact on behaviour and relationships. Theories might include one family member’s need for love and attention, the impact of the loss of their father, perceived rejection from their mother, the influence of the peer group, lack of support at school, physical abuse two years ago and so forth.                  We specialise in autism in mainstream schools, inclusion of students with disabilities, education psychology, autism education, community building and training on inclusion.
  12. What alternative strategies/interventions are open to be used? Brainstormed and recorded. ’Either/ors’ need to be avoided at this time also. This needs to be a shared session in which the family member who is presenting the concern contributes as much as anyone. Care is needed to ensure that this person is not overloaded with other people’s strategies.
  13. The final selection of strategy or strategies from the brainstormed list is the problem presenter’s choice.       Strategies might include: a special time for the young person, a meeting with the child’s parents to explore how she is being managed at home and to share tactics, a home-school diary, counselling, or an agreed action plan that all are aware of, agreed sanctions and rewards and so forth. Strategies may productively involve processes of restitution and restoration, when ‘sorry’ is not enough. Making it right, rather than punishments or rewards, may then becomes the focus. 
  14. First Steps. The problem presenter is finally asked to agree one or two first steps which they can carry out over the next 3-7 days. It can help to assign a ‘coach’ who will check in with them to ensure they have carried out the action they have named. This is a time to be very specific. Steps should be small and achievable. The person is just ‘making a start’. A phone call, or making an agreement with a key other person not present at the meeting would be ideal examples.
  15. Final reflections. Sometimes referred to as a ‘round of words’ help with closure for all involved. Reflections are on the process not the problem. In large families this is best done standing in a circle. In smaller groups all can remain sitting. Passing around a ‘listening stick’ or something similar such as a stone or light heighten the significance of the process ending and improve listening.
  16. Finally the problem presenter is handed the ‘Graphic’ this is their record of the meeting and can be rolled and presented ceremoniously by the facilitators for maximum effect!

We specialise in autism in mainstream schools, inclusion of students with disabilities, education psychology, autism education, community building and training on inclusion.

If you liked this course you may well like:

Parent Solutions

Circle of Adults

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Colin Newton

0115 955 6045

Doug Newton

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