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Our  Faculty Voices series invites Pacifica faculty and alumni into engaged conversation, a community call-and-response to which all are invited.

Alternatives to Violence Project: A way to bring together members of the Pacifica family

Mary Watkins  |  Co-Chair, Depth Psychology Program
Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, Ecopsychology Specialization
Watkins ≥ Mary
| originally posted on 30 Apr 2012

Dear Alumni,

I need you! Last summer I was driving back home from an Alternatives to Violence Training (AVP) for Facilitators at Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, California with Pat Hardy, the coordinator for AVP in California. We were both moved by the men we had met: their stories of their childhoods, their recounting of the events that ended up in their incarceration, their struggle to educate themselves in prison, the racism and violence they were encountering, and their work on their emotional and spiritual development. During our long drive home, Pat shared with me her vision. She quit her job for it and is now actualizing it. She wants to see AVP in every prison in California. She is halfway there. I asked her what she needed to realize her vision fully. She answered: “More facilitators.” Nationally, AVP exists in many states, and they all have a need for more facilitators. You immediately sprung into my mind. I said to her, “Pacifica has several thousand alumni who are psychologically astute and depth oriented. They would be wonderful facilitators for AVP. Perhaps I could help gather together those who are called to be of service to people in prison.”

Whenever alumni come together with faculty, staff, students, and administrators, there is a special magic that happens. Lupe Zuniga, Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology, 2001), and I experienced this in the early days of Pacifica’s Diversity Committee. The sensibilities and values that have brought us together to this place called “Pacifica” are in the air and a feeling of reunion occurs. If we add to this special mix, members of the larger community and places where we can convene to share the bounty of our education and who we have become, I believe an amazing and effective synergy could occur.

I am writing to you to propose an initial “service” project for the Pacifica Alumni Association, and hope it will be the first of many over the years. I would like to invite Pacifica alumni, students, faculty, and staff to train together to become volunteer facilitators for the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP). Many of us are deeply concerned about the justice system, the treatment of prisoners, and the removal of many educational and rehabilitation opportunities from the prisons. AVP is an international association of volunteer groups offering experiential workshops in conflict resolution, responses to violence, and personal growth in prisons, community groups, and schools. Workshops have been held for businesses, churches, community associations, street gangs, halfway houses, women’s shelters, and many others. One variation of AVP, Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities, is used in conflict and post-conflict situations in many parts of the world.

To become a facilitator, an individual needs to participate in three 2-3 day (18 hour) trainings and then apprentice in three more. I am proposing that these trainings take place once a quarter at Pacifica, bringing alumni home to Pacifica, and facilitating their engagement with current students, faculty, administrators, and staff, while making creative use of their depth psychological acumen in a common project.

Once trained “outside” community facilitators partner with “inside” (inmate) prison facilitators to make these trainings available to inmates. Creating a space to learn how to resolve conflict nonviolently is essential for creating cultures of peace, as well as improving inmates’ own time in prison, to help them gain their release, and to help them to successfully rejoin their families and communities. AVP is in many prisons throughout the United States, but could be enjoyed in many more if there were more facilitators. It is also used in many community and school settings.

AVP workshops empower people to lead nonviolent lives through learning conflict resolution skills, affirmation, respect for all, community building, cooperation, and trust. They help participants “manage strong feelings such as anger and fear, deal more effectively with risk and danger, build good relationships with other people, communicate well in difficult situations, help people recognize the skills they already have and learn new ones, be true to oneself while respecting other people, understand why conflict happens.” There is a wonderful radio show about the AVP Program. I encourage you to listen to it.

If you would like to join with us to support and develop this project, please email me at to alert me to your interest. Our society needs to increase our understanding of violence and its root causes, and to facilitate the learning of skills that contribute to nonviolence. YOU — Pacifica’s Depth Psychologists, Mythologists, and Counselors — can play an important role in addressing these needs. AND we can deeply enjoy each other in the process! As soon as I have an initial list of 25 people who would like to begin, I can schedule the first workshop. Explore the links, and if this is work that calls to you, please email me.

Warm wishes, Mary (Watkins)

P.S. I highly recommend the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Color Blindness by Michelle Alexander. If you have doubts about this project, read this book first!

•|  COMMENTS  |•
Collected here, with posting dates, are observations made in the “Comments” section included with the original appearance of this article at the initial website of Pacifica Graduate Institute Alumni Association.  Please feel welcome to offer additional notes in the current “Comments” function.
Mary Watkins.  |  13 July 2012
From Save the date! Good news! We have enough interested people to plan our first AVP workshop at Pacifica. Dianne and I will soon be announcing it for August 10 (beginning at 6:30pm) to August 12th (ending at 2:30). We will be contacting those who have expressed interest very soon. If there are more of you who have not yet let me know of your interest, please email me at Warm wishes, Mary.
Ramanjit Garewal  |  Yoga Institute Santacruz | 24 Nov 2013
🙂 🙂
Mary Watkins  |  Professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute | 4 May 2012
Alumni, You are amazing! In the last four days 21 people have expressed their interest in joining this training and in offering it in prisons and communities. When a few more folks come forward, I will be able to schedule a conference call for questions, and then an initial workshop at Pacifica. Several Pacifica staff and students have also volunteered to join us. Some of those interested have already been working in prisons and juvenile justice facilities. Some have worked with youth in the foster care system, and some with members of families affected by having a family member in prison. Some are bearing the sad weight of having a loved one in the justice system. I am moved by the stories you are sharing with me, the work you are already doing, and your willingness to bring the work of nonviolence into prisons. Thank you.
Pat Hardy  |  Volunteer Facilitator at Alternatives to Violence Project CA | 30 Apr 2012
Mary, So you know our latest projects…
Several local facilitators and a couple brought in from outside have been working with Palabra, group that works with at-risk youth and gang members. RESULT: We now have three teen facilitators ready to travel. Next steps are are to train others.
And we are talking to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, after the Hunger Strike earlier this year, about offering AVP to men coming out of long-term Pelican Bay “solitary-like” incarceration as one of their first steps toward living with others in the general prison population. Much research being done, but no action yet.
Plus we are talking to a Boys and Girls Club in Santa Paula about their starting a program there.
Thank you for your support… we look forward to a long association.
Mary Watkins  |  Professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute | 1 May 2012
Pat Hardy has suggested that if our first training is longer that we can get volunteers into the prison more quickly. This is a possibility if people’s schedules allow.
Alternatives to Violence Project CA  |  30 Apr 2012

Betty McEady, Ed.D.  |  28 Sept 2012
Although AVP is not a personal therapy program, after connecting with its interpersonal principles and simulations, one finds that the inevitable emerges: James Hillman’s “psychologizing”–the act of “seeing through” into one’s own violent tendencies and behaviors. The program has helped me to witness “humanization” in action. Thanks to the principles of AVP, to my fellow trainers/participants, and to the Pacifica Alumni Association for sponsoring opportunities for me and others to recognize and manage alternatives to violence.

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