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.
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.