How to Facilitate a Support Group

Written by chad hunter
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Support groups are essential to good mental and social health during challenging times. Given how important they are, support groups must be carefully managed and facilitated in order to be effective and helpful.

Skill level:

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    Begin with introductions. Ask everyone to introduce themselves and say maybe one or two sentences about who they are. Keep introductions short and light so anyone who is shy or uncertain won't feel intimidated. Save your own intro for either the beginning or end, and state that you are the group facilitator.

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    Establish yourself as the leader. Once you've introduced yourself as such, act the role by managing time, regulating conversations and making sure communication avoids negativity and animosity. Inspire the quiet persons to talk and limit the boisterous who want to talk all the time.

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    Take notice of who is who. In order to facilitate the group, knowing who may have a victim mentality, who may need extra attention, who may pick on others and who may need one-on-one connection is key. A good support group facilitator will not treat everyone the same because each member's needs are all differently met by the group.

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    Set topics and schedules. Establish what the day's session will be about and how long the support group will meet for. Stick to the topic and schedule at hand.

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    Stay on track. Facilitating a group requires keeping conversations, meeting times, locations and external influences on track. Shifting meeting times can create a threat to group harmony, so make sure to stick to regular meeting times and places.

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    Be prepared for active involvement. Facilitating a support group means you must be ready to deal with real conversations, interruptions, questions and answers from various members of the group. Active involvement can be hectic and will require a major energy commitment from you.

Tips and warnings

  • Stay flexible. Be sure to diffuse threats to your group facilitation quickly and efficiently.
  • Avoid confrontations with and between other group members as best as possible.

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