The Coaching Program

What is Restorative Justice? Restorative Practices?

Our present justice system is based upon Retributive Justice. When a person has been harmed a Retributive Justice system focuses on the following three questions:

  1. What laws/rules have been broken?
  2. Who did it? How shall blame be apportioned?
  3. What punishment is deserved?

In contrast, in the same situation a Restorative Justice System would focus on these questions”

  1. Who has been harmed?
  2. What obligations should be recognized from the harm?
  3. How can the harm be repaired?

Historically, our schools, criminal justice system and youth detention centers have been primarily influenced by the Retributive Justice model. However, recently innovations in Restorative Justice have been introduced world-wide with such positive impacts on both those creating harm and those being harmed that major institutional changes are taking place. (Research Link)

Restorative Practices is a term used to describe a larger set of philosophies and practices that apply the thinking behind Restorative Justice to a broad area of human interactions, including relationships in families, schools, social service agencies, and communities.

Isn’t punishment necessary for people to mend their ways?

The problem with punishment is that it leads the punishe to focus their anger on who is punishing them rather than reflecting thoughtfully on the impact of their own choices. Those who did the harmful act never get a chance to meet the person harmed and see first-hand how their acts have hurt another human being. There is no opportunity to grow their empathic understanding, to experience how they can repair the harm caused by their actions and thereby grow into a more caring, responsible and valued member of the community.

With punishment and a focus on guilt, shame and blame, students become defensive and less receptive to input.  They are less able to figure out what led them to make the choices they did and how they could make different choices in the future. They come to think of themselves as bad, may feel that they don’t belong, that their experience doesn’t matter and there is no place for them. We know that healthy development is associated with feelin we do matter, that there is care for us and our voices will be heard and attended to.

With Restorative Practices we focus on understanding and repairing harm – not punishment for punishment’s sake.

Moving description of how a Restorative Conference in school repaired the harm experienced by a
father and his middle-school daughter. (2 minutes)

 Isn’t this just being “soft” – coddling wrong-doers?

 Directly facing a person or persons you have harmed and, potentially, the family members of the harmed person is NOT an easy thing to do.  It means actually looking at what you have done and seeing in the faces of others how they have been affected.  Most students consider a suspension a lot easier to handle than this.  But this type of Restorative Circle can and often does lead to outcomes of learning, connection and growth that cannot be accomplished by a simple suspension.

Further, recent research in the development of the brain from birth to adolescence indicates that punishment and the attempt to make the wrong-doer suffer may only serve to increase the likelihood of further wrong-doing. This is because punishment reduces the ability of the pre-frontal cortex (where our more mature thinking takes place) to guide a youth’s choices rather than the more limited hindbrain.

How about combining suspensions AND Restorative Circles?

Traditionally, schools have relied a lot on suspensions as punishments for repeated or serious infractions of school rules. For many students, being suspended from school is not a punishment that changes thinking or behavior. It is a time for hanging out playing video games at home.  Even more seriously, suspensions increase the likelihood of drug use, illegal behavior, getting pregnant, gang involvement, failing courses, dropping out of school, and self-harm. Suspensions do not Improve student behavior or learning and students are placed at increase risk of harm.

 For these reasons, the DC Council followed a national trend in 2018 and passed a law sharply reducing the circumstances under which school suspensions could be implemented and recommended the use of Restorative Practices wherever feasible.

Suspensions will continue to be used in most school disciplinary programs, but their use will be severely limited and schools need to develop other methods for addressing incidents of harm and building a culture where such incidents are less frequent and resolved in ways that lead to connection, learning and growth.  These are the goals of Restorative Practices.

How will this affect youth in our urban setting?

 The traditional Retributive Justice system has had a hugely disparate impact on students of color and from low-income families. The result is a “school-to-prison pipeline” that has resulted in Black men being imprisoned at a rate 6.5 times the rate of White men. Restorative practices can play a critical role in transforming these structural inequities.

Restorative Practices emphasizes the development of relationships of trust, empathy for self and others, and problem-solving skills which make conflict less intense and easier to resolve when it occurs. It also encourages the examination of the full context of conflict and harm-producing situations so that root causes and systemic causes can be addressed, not simply ignored or swept under the rug to lead to further eruptions.

What is Coaching?

The term “coach” has become very popular, and is used in a wide variety of ways, e.g. football coach, acting coach, vocal coach, financial coach. It is even sometimes used by people who have had no specific training in coaching and are simply asking a few questions and then giving an opinion of what they think a person should do.

Let’s clear up some things about Coaching as a profession. Coaching is sometimes confused with other professions. So here are some general definitions.

  • Counseling/Therapy – addresses problems of behavior, beliefs, feelings or relationships, potentially exploring deep injuries from the past
  • Mentoring – an expert in an area gives advice and direction to a person with less experience drawing upon their knowledge and experience
  • Instructing/Teaching – a knowledgeable person supports another in gaining skills, concepts, and understanding
  • Consulting – an experienced person helps an individual or group to find answers

What is referred to now as the profession of coaching has some overlap with the above roles, and is also somewhat different.


“Everyone needs a coach.” Bill Gates, CEO Microsoft

This program can improve your skills.

Coaches address specific situations, challenges, projects or goals in a person’s life. They focus on what is working well and uncovering the obstacles or challenges that may be impeding further satisfaction and accomplishments.  They support clients in creating actions that build a life that is deeply fulfilling for clients.

Coaches do a lot more asking than telling. They are superb listeners, both empathic and discerning. Their questions are provocative and inspiring. Coaches are flexible, curious, creative and positive in their approach. Those coached become empowered to find amazing new ways to live a life consistent with their values and passions while also caring for the well-being of those important to them.

Coaches are trained in a number of core competencies through supervised practice.  In this program you will learn coaching skills by coaching your peers and being coached by them.  Everyone grows from participating in both the giving and receiving. AND it is fun to be closely connected to a group of people you come to know well and have each others’ backs!

Life and career coaching is one of the fastest growing professions and is becoming increasingly recognized for its importance in business, education, ministry, and human services.

Personally, I believe that all people who work with people can benefit from learning coaching skills, because we all value and are called upon to support others.  During the year-long coaching course I took several years ago I was amazed and thrilled to see the growth in me and my relationships. And this was despite the many years of training and experience I already had as a psychologist and teacher. I was also, especially excited to see the growth in skills and the ability to support other that I saw in my classmates. Many of my classmates had had no previous formal training in coaching, counseling, mentoring or related activities.  After eight months I saw such an increase in skill and presence among them that I felt comfortable recommending many of them as coaches formy family members and friends.

This increase in confidence and skill level can be yours!

What is Nonviolent Communication?sm

“An enemy is one whose story we have not heard.” Gene Knudsen-Hoffman

Nonviolent Communication is a model for talking and listening, AND so much more.

Nonviolent Communication is arguably the most complete and highly regarded system for clear, precise and effective communication. The foundational book by its developer, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D., Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, has been published in over 30 languages and sold over a million copies.  Trainers of Nonviolent Communication are now sharing this work in businesses, schools, social service agencies, in war-torn areas and with families and communities in over 50 countries and on 6 continents.

What does Nonviolent Communication look like?  Feel like?

Compare these different ways of speaking.

Statement A: “How could I be so stupid? It seems like I never learn!”


Statement B: “This is the second time I’ve forgotten to pay my credit card bill on time. I hate late charges! I want to attend to my finances with care AND be gentle with myself.”


Statement A: “You just don’t understand me.  You never listen, do you?”


Statement B: “I remember our conversation a bit differently.  Could we go over what is important to each of us in this situation? I really want to be clear about how we both see things.

Do you feel differently reading the second version of these sets of statements? A bit less charged, more relaxed and at ease? Do you find yourself a bit more openness and caring for the speaker, more willing to engage with them?

Nonviolent Communication emphasizes:

  • Making careful observations, free of evaluations
  • Identifying and articulating universal values or needs
  • Deep listening and empathy, for ourselves as well as for others
  • Sharing our feelings honestly without blame or judgment

Using Nonviolent Communication we learn to move past judgment and share our experiences in a way that grows the relationship and understanding.


—WES TAYLOR, Progressive Health

Expressing what is true and important to me, in ways others can really take in.

Since I have been a part of the Restorative Coaching Program, I have become aware of how frequently I have judgments of people’s behavior. I learned that judging is what our mind automatically does; what matters is what I do with those judgments. When I express them directly as judgments in “raw” unprocessed form I destroy my chances of having the quality of connection I want. What has been so incredibly helpful to me is to learn how to identify and express the more gentle feelings and needs beneath the judgments. This has led to so much more connection and understanding between me and the people I most care about in my life.  This training is so valuable – it has changed my whole trajectory in how I relate to others.

Barbara Owens

Teacher, Pastor

And this is what Barbara’s husband has to say about the changes he has noticed.”

“As a result of the training, Barbara has exhibited an expansion of her already great capacity for empathetic listening.  She is much more aware of not only how the person she is engaging is experiencing the conversation, she is also more in-touch with how she is experiencing the moment as well. The clarifying questions, and “checking-in” techniques have become more than a strategy, but a routine part of daily dialogue.”

Rev. Marvin J. Owens, Jr

National Sr. Director of Economic Programs, NAACP

How might this make a difference?

The impact of Nonviolent Communication for you can be truly transformative. You are likely to find yourself able to:

  • Have collaborative relationships WITH students, colleague, supervisors rather than relationships where one person POWERS OVER another
  • Resolve conflicts in ways that leave both parties feeling heard and their needs attended to – with no underlying resentments
  • Experience a growing trust and openness due to fuller understanding
  • Feel more confidence and inner peace in situations that previously felt tense or upsetting
  • Respond in ways that you value rather than just reacting automatically
  • Give others feedback and minimizes their defensiveness
  • Understand the “sensible” reasons that other choose to behave in ways that are hurtful to others or even themselves

Research on Nonviolent Communication

Research looking at the effectiveness of Nonviolent Communication is described at

Do your own research!

Since each person is different, the question is how will Nonviolent Communication work for you? Most people are able to quickly evaluate whether Nonviolent Communication works for them by trying it out (preferably with the support of a trainer or practice group) and seeing how it affects their experience of themselves and others. This approach has led Nonviolent Communication to spread to all continents and over 50 countries.

What others are saying about Nonviolent Communication, developed by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Upon becoming CEO of Microsoft, Nadella asked his top executives to read Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication “Why else is empathy important?. Nadella states: You have to be able to say, ‘Where is this person coming from?’” he says. “‘What makes them tick? Why are they excited or frustrated by something that is happening, whether it’s about computing or beyond computing?’

“Nonviolent Communication can change the world. More importantly, it can change your life. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

—JACK CANFIELD, Chicken Soup for the Soul Series

“You’ll learn simple tools to defuse arguments and create compassionate connections with your family, friends, and other acquaintances.”

—JOHN GRAY, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

Marshall Rosenberg provides us with the most effective tools to foster health and relationships. Nonviolent Communication connects soul to soul, creating a lot of healing. It is the missing element in what we do.”

—DEEPAK CHOPRA, How to Know God and Ageless Body and Timeless Mind

“A revolutionary way of looking at language. If enough people actually make use of the material in Nonviolent Communication, we may soon live in a more peaceful and compassionate world.”

—WES TAYLOR, Progressive Health

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