Being the support facilitator of any kind of group is not as easy as it may seem. It takes considerable planning, organization and some extraordinary people skills to keep the group under control and on track, whether it is a drug abuse group, mental health group or one designed to address a certain illness or problem. Some groups are run by a licensed social worker, psychologist or mental health counselor. Other groups may be run by someone who does not have a mental health degree but has been involved for a long time with their own recovery or health problem. Facilitators that are not licensed professionals may take their own training program and receive a certificate.
The first thing you will need is a comfortable and secure location that you know you will be able to use long into the future. Secondly you will have to set a time for your meetings and stick to that time. You can’t keep canceling or rescheduling meetings or this can be an excuse for people not to return. Remember human beings are creatures of habit and if you can encourage people to the first time and have a good experience this will help create a pattern. Your group may become a “secure” place for certain individuals, who will actually look forward to coming each week as a part of their personal therapy.
Make your plans and structure each session well ahead. Depending on the kind of group you have, it’s good to have something new and fresh each week to talk about. Some facilitators will use a book to focus on topics in each week’s session to keep everyone involved and interested. You should clarify the rules and make sure people understand them.
To even have considered becoming a support facilitator you should know you have the ability to work with a group of diverse people all with different needs and problems. Each person will have a different personality – from those who don’t speak at all, to others who always want to talk and those who consistently take meetings off track. You will have to diffuse arguments and learn how to recognize an argument in the making and be able to steer the conversation to something else if it gets out of control or inappropriate.
Support groups by their very nature are for people working through issues, and it is very easy to end up with some eople who are feeling negative about their faith, their addiction or their health. That’s something else you must be able to do – keep the meeting positive – that’s the whole reason for your group, after all. But, also delving into the sadness, grief or disappointments is also important for healing. A trauma support group can help people work through past pain. Holiday depression support is also a group that benefits many people.
On the day of your first meeting, whether only two people show up or 20, stay firmly in control. Introduce yourself and tell your attendees why you are running the class. If you are lucky to have a good-sized group, make sure everyone introduces themselves and have them tell the group a few lines about themselves and why they are there. Give out name stickers if necessary, it’s to everyone’s benefit during the first few sessions. Make it social and friendly but don’t let it get out of hand – you are in control.
Make sure everyone gets to say what they want to say. Keep the boisterous and non-stop talkers under control, and encourage the quiet, shy people to talk. You will find that you cannot dedicate the same amount of time to every attendee, as they all have different needs and personalities, but you should avoid favoritism towards one particular person, as this can cause jealousy and dissent. You are similar to e a teacher, in charge of a class of personalities who all have problems, whether it’s drug addiction or suffering from the loss of a spouse or parent. People need structure and security.
As a group support facilitator, if you stick to your plans and help people to open up, you should have successful group meetings that will be both satisfying for you and helpful to all members.