Coyote Institute -- Studies of Change and Transformation

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Coyote Institute, P.O. Box 578, Brattleboro, VT 05302

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The Coyote Institute is a teaching and research centre that looks for ways to encourage people to transform their attitudes towards their own health. We intend to do it through engaging people in a process of transformative learning, to encourage their sense of effectiveness in their own lives and to foster their connection to a community that supports them in good health practices.

“Transformative learning” is a term that describes a process of change that occurs as a result of examining our own basic assumptions and expectations, and assessing their application to a current situation (Mezirow, 2000). In 1986, the World Health Organization defined health as “a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities.” At the Coyote Institute our aim is to focus on these ‘social and personal resources’ in the maintenance of good health.

It has long been known that a person’s sense of their own effectiveness in the world is critical to their making healthy life changes. Increasingly, ideas are being explored as to how to encourage that sense of self-efficacy in those who access the health care system, as a way of both facilitating an increased level of health in a person and decreasing the burden on that system (Connor, 2005). The empowering patient model involves health care workers in conscious relationship building to create a ‘mutual critical reflection,’ (McWilliams, 2009) of a person’s thinking about life and health.  This means engaging in a discursive process of listening, education and motivational thinking to establish how someone might experience their own health, and then to work towards establishing some level of autonomy.

It has also long been considered that social support is a vital component of good health. The coyote institute aims to create a community that provides mutual support in good health practices.

Hocokah Project

One of the primary areas of curiosity is into the talking circle (hocokah).

In aboriginal thinking, the most critical way to bring people together is in a talking circle.  A talking circle is a unique process that has been used and developed over the centuries, and is increasingly being used in business and health situations today.  The talking circle brings together people to share their concerns and to engage in a process of open and respectful dialogue in order to air them.  This seemingly simple idea carried with it considerable complexity as it encourages a deep level of listening and engagement in a social setting.

There is a tendency for the power and effectiveness of the talking circle to be underestimated.  While it certainly creates challenges for those who come from a different paradigm for meetings, we are curious to research what we suspect are the very sophisticated communications practices embedded within, and to come up with a document that suggests the effectiveness of talking circles.



The CI encourages the participation of all those who consider a community approach to health care. Bringing together those with knowledge to share, or leading workshops in practices that lead to self-efficacy.  Practitioners who wish to teach techniques, lay workers who undertake community initiatives are invited to one to three day workshops that focus on specific skills. Workshops can cover topics from narrative practices to bodywork, as the abilities and qualifications of associated teachers provides.


The Coyote Institute is committed to grassroots initiatives in healing,  The idea of popular health care is rooted in aboriginal traditions that encourage a community responsibility for supporting each other in healing.

To this end, the Coyote Institute will offer community workshops in concerns for those who have little training in health-care. We will provide health care basics, preventative health care information, basic understanding of the body, and an introduction to narrative practices: