Building a Home for the Heart

Using Metaphors in Value-Centered Circles

By Patricia Thalhuber, B.V.M., and Susan Thompson

Foreword by Kay Pranis, illustrated by Loretta Draths

Living Justice PressSoftcover, 224 pp, indexed and illustrated, ISBN 978-0-9721886-3-0, publication 2007



Building a Home for the Heart is a guide that not only gives in-depth background about using metaphors to talk about values, but also practical suggestions of metaphors that have been successful in the authors’ practice with women incarcerated at the Volunteers of America Regional Correctional Center in Roseville, Minnesota.

In 1998, Pat Thalhuber and Susan Thompson began keeping a talking Circle with women incarcerated at the Volunteers of America Regional Correctional Center in Roseville, Minnesota. During their years with the Circle, they discovered that metaphors could help the women talk about values and lead to profound realizations that would not otherwise have been possible. In this volume, Pat and Sue share much of what they have learned about using metaphors to facilitate self-healing. Written with Circle participants in mind and relevant for all who journey toward healing, the book follows the seasons through a full year, reflecting on the human condition, our place in the natural world, and our connections to ourselves and each other.

Reviews and Comments

In Building a Home for the Heart: Using Metaphors in Value-Centered Circles, restorative justice practitioners Patricia Thalhuber and Susan Thompson report on the practice of using metaphors in value-centered circles they conducted over the course of the past decade at the Volunteers of America Regional Corrections Center, a women’s prison located in Roseville, Minnesota. Building a Home for the Heart, which also serves as one of the metaphors explored in this practice-oriented volume, consists of two major parts:

In the first part, “Using Metaphors to Explore Values in Circles,” Thalhuber and Thompson offer concise and compelling reasons for the use of circles, and of restorative justice generally. I was especially struck by the authors’ challenging of contemporary punitive practices. Also helpful is their summary of the principles on which value-centered circles are based.

In the second section, “Sample Circle Formats,” the authors more explicitly examine a set of values, such as humility, patience, respect and integrity, that were identified by the Roseville women. More specifically, Thalhuber and Thompson explore the women’s values through dialogue and images that focus on seasonal (and, indeed, monthly) changes that find metaphors that “spark their imaginations” and “go deeper into these values.”

—Russ Immarigeon, Editor, in Justice Connections

“. . . For Thalhuber and Thompson, who began their collaboration while meeting at a domestic violence shelter, the use of metaphors is powerful. They observe, “Metaphors are powerful for good reason. They help us tap into powers that we all have for healing and transformation that surpass our trained intellects. When we are in conflict or pain, the best logic does very little to help. Deep, transformative shifts are far more likely to occur when someone shares a personal story or appeals to an image. If the metaphor fits, it takes hold of us, gives us a different perspective, and moves us to an inner place where change becomes possible.”

“Thalhuber and Thompson argue that circle practices such as those described in this book are effective because, at least at the Roseville prison, they are used to focus on women’s emotions, feelings and life experiences. “Rather than talking directly about a crime that was committed,” the authors state, “participants can use metaphors to represent situations – as well as their feelings about those situations – in non-threatening, non-judgmental, and non-accusatory ways. A good metaphor leaves the door open for hope. The adversarial format that usually accompanies efforts to deal with harms is replaced by an inclusive format – one that invites people to draw upon the healing values inherent in reparation and resolution. Circle participants are more likely to feel that they are ‘all on the same side’ in their search for truth, justice, and good. The natural result is that value-focused Circles help unify rather than further separate already divided relationships.”

— Russ Immarigeon, Editor, in Women, Girls, and Criminal Justice

“Pat Thalhuber and Susan Thompson have written a wonderful book that stimulates thinking about the meaning of core values and describes specific ways that we can generate dialogue about them in groups. The Circle-based framework that they present could be used by any of us with family, friends, coworkers, or neighbors. These are the critical conversations of our time, and this book is a lovely guide for having those conversations.”

—Kay Pranis, Circle trainer and author of Peacemaking Circles

“The talking Circles were instrumental in helping my client work through a very difficult period of her life. Through the Circle, she experienced the support and compassion she needed for healing. . . . I am grateful the Circle was available to my client, and I consider ti a valuable resource in working with probation clients.”

—Julie Paul, probation officer, Ramsey County, Minnesota

“Any time a group of people can sit in a Circle together to resolve their differences, to right a wrong, and to ease human pain, something wonderful has occurred. . . . I welcome these writings and the passion of these authors to use Circles as a means of healing and peace.”

—Susan Coler, B.V.M., and lawyer

“Living Justice Press has successfully published two books on the subject of Peacemaking Circles. While each book in-and-of itself represents a worhtwhile investment, both books, together, are a must have for any library interested in restorative justice. . . .

“In Building a Home for the Heart: Using Metaphors in Value-Centred Circles, authors Patricia Thalhuber and Susan Thompson report on their success in using metaphors, grounded in dialogue around seasonal change, within the Circle process to explore the values of incarcerated women. The authors demonstrate that using metaphors are effective because they focus on emotions and life experiences, not on “the crime.” As such, Circles offer a non-threatening and supportive arena in which people may tap into their emotions.

“Building a Home for the Heart: Using Metaphors in Value-Centered Circles is much more than simply a book describing how to delve into people’s emotions through the use of metaphors. The power behind this book is that is takes us on a healing journey in which we are shown how to leave the door of hope open for our troubled peers who are hurting so.”

—John Charlton
Review in the International Journal of Restorative Justice, September, 2007.
© Centre for the Study of Crime, Restorative Justice, and Community Safety.

You may also like…