Group Dynamics

Cross Talking

Some group leaders will take advantage of difficult behaviour and turn it into an educational opportunity for the entire group. As an example, a group might have several members who continuously cross talk or hold “second conversations” during the regular meeting. The leader might opt at one point to suggest, “Since we seem to have a little extra time tonight, I would suggest that we have a group discussion on how cross-talking  affects  us  individually.” This can be a positive and effective way to challenge this behaviour.

Just  the  opportunity  for  group  members  to  tell  each  other  how  this  behaviour  affects  them.  “Whenever  anyone  else talks while it is my turn to speak, I feel like no one is interested in me.” The offenders will learn how their behaviour affects other people negatively; something they might never have thought of before.

Discourage  Stigma  and  Discrimination

Many  group  members  have  felt  both  internal  and  external discrimination and stigma, which causes lack of confidence and isolation. Ensure that group members always treat each other with respect, not only as individuals, but also as someone who may be at a different point in their journey. Keep in mind any cultural  differences,  personality  traits  or  varying  life  experiences.  A  self-help  group  needs  to  be  encouraging  and nurturing and there is no room for added discrimination.

Global Links:

Don’t Allow Coercion, Over-Controlling Behaviours and Restrictions To Reign

Many members who have been  through  the  mental  health  system, are in recovery  or  who  have  been  extensively hospitalised  have  a  long  history  of  others  using coercion, restricting and over-controlling behaviours thus stripping the individual of their sense of self. Allow only  “I”  statements to prevent members from sounding  controlling or  coercing.


Empower Each Other in Simple Ways

Feeling empowered is an essential part of the recovery process. Part of empowerment  means  taking  personal  responsibility  for your  own  decisions.  Allow people to contribute to the running of the group. Make sure that all members listen respectfully to each other without judgment, and show concern and care for each other.

Develop Leadership, Shared Leadership and Shared Responsibility.  Shared leadership is very important to the success of a self-help group, and critical in helping members progress.

Encourage  Leadership/Participation:  Since  it  has  been  proven  that  persons  in  support  groups  who  take  on  leadership roles fare much better in their journey, encourage all of the group members to take on some responsibility  for  the  group.  These  can  be  small  contributions  such  as  making  the  coffee  or  putting  out  the  literature. When a person feels ready, they can take on larger responsibilities such as greeting new members at the door or co-facilitating. But even the smallest contribution can be empowering, helping a person to reconnect to others, and offer meaningful activities.

Break Down Responsibilities and Delegate Work to Other Members: Group formats are usually made up of many activities (e.g. welcoming members, reading the ground rules at the beginning of the meeting, making the coffee, etc). These responsibilities can be handed out to several members so that everyone feels like an integral part of  the  group.  Shared  responsibility  allows  every  group  member  to  feel  as  though  they  have  contributed  toward the functioning of the group.

Make  Meeting  Format  Scripts: For  groups  that  have  a  very  specific  format  that  is  repeated  each  meeting,  scripts can be made so that any member may volunteer to lead the group by just following the script. In many groups, this leadership role is rotated among the members so that everyone gets a turn at running the group.

Don’t Be the Expert

In order to have members learn to support and be supported by other members, do not set yourself up as the expert. Discourage it when members only make eye contact with you. If anyone asks you a question, throw it back into the group to allow someone else to answer it.