Support Group - how I started mine





    -is peer run with no professionals, sharing feelings and emotional support

    -sharing what has helped

    -a place to feel safe, not ashamed

    -is a team effort


    -to help people

    -to share what you have learned and learn from other members



    -community centres


    -medical offices

    -library (will charge a fee)

    -Metro Hall (need to be non-profit)

    -coffee shops

    -apartment/condo meeting/party rooms

    (each space has to reflect the group; ex: my support group for social phobics needs to be in a private space since most social phobics do not like to be in public)


    -time, date, how often (once a week/once a month, time - day or evening (evening you will probably reach more people)

    -do you take breaks for Christmas, summer,


    -people who are dealing with the same issues as you


    -this depends on what the group is for (ex: my support group - for some they like only a few people; others like a lot of people)

    -depends on the space you have


    -by email and or phone, person to person


    -make up flyers and distribute:

    library, community centres, hospitals, schools, coffee shops, doctor offices, NOW and community newspaper, Mood Disorders Association of Canada, Self-Help Resource Centre, Bulletin - Centre for Addiction and Mental Health


    facebook, ask others that have support group similar to yours with web sites to add flyer or information


    -open or closed meetings (is there a starting and end date, or are the meetings on-going)

    -do people just show up or do they have to register

    -membership - membership form for each person

    -donation box

    -refreshments: people bring their own, or if there is a donation you bring in the refreshments


    -guest speakers

    -structured meetings or more flexible

    -other activities outside of group: ex: dinners, movies, pub night, bike riding, museums, etc.

    -information brought in by members - should be given to facilitar(s) to approve before sharing

    -people may come to the meeting pushing products; such as herbs, courses, etc. ask them to politely leave

    -do you want a web site, newsletters

    - e-mails to group members to keep up to date; reminders of meetings, social outings, news that might be beneficial to members

    -attendance taken and notes about the meeting

    -agreement between facilitator(s) that they do not date members

    -alcohol/drugs - ask to leave if disruptive

    -check in at beginning of meeting or do people volunteer this information

    -if not right fit for someone attending and are disrupting others; talk to them after the meeting and suggest another meeting they might be more comfortable with and more helpful

    -conflict within group, be gentle and tell them that this can be discussed after the meeting

    -be aware of what is happening and how people are reacting

    -if a member becomes upset you can go up to them and ask if they would like to step outside and if they would like you to go with them

    -members may be hesitant to start; have news or something that you can share; share what has helped you

    - explain this group is for support if more help is needed they may need to see a professional; if you have a list of professionals you can give out this information

    -bring in news items, books, videos that you would like to share

    -sense of humour will go miles

    -play games, charades, etc.

    -members share their poetry, music, writing

    -do a meditation before and/or after meeting

    -Anxiety levels - in my support group one of the members will write on the chalkboard anxiety levels of members two times during a meeting (this is done 1) person who is afraid of writing in front of people may use this time to write on the chalkboard, 2) people become more aware of what is making them anxious 3) learn to trust each other if their anxiety is high they will realize that no one will make fun of them and that they are in a safe environment

    -safety: what do you do if someone is very disruptive - start out by asking them to leave and if they do not take them away from the group and be gentle and suggest they leave (I am fortunate that I have my meetings at CAMH and have used the security a few times because the person became too agitated)

    -about 10 minutes before end of meeting ask members if they have anything they want to share, do they want to discuss anything that happened that upset or triggered them

    -do you have members contact you outside of meeting; by phone, e-mails, person to person

    -thank all members for sharing and how they helped others, (might mention they are brave and strong to be in the meetings)

    PARTICIPANT CONSIDERATION (or do a Comfort Agreement)

    I have a participation consideration which consists of the following

    -dignity of everyone is to be protected at all times

    -respect for others

    -no pressure of members to participate

    -keep anything that could identify another group member confidential

    -treat each with respect courtesy and interest

    -really try to listen to what other people are saying, rather than leaping in with suggestions, interpretations

    -give people time to say what they want, time limit about 5 minutes

    -take responsibility for one’s presence and participation in the group, rather than allowing yourself to get caught up in comparing oneself with others or with judging yourself or others

    -open to new ideas as long as it does not jeopardize the integrity of what the group is about

    -friends, parents, social workers, etc. partners of members are very welcome but do not dominate the meeting proceedings; they are there more to observe



    -it can be very emotional hearing people’s stories; take time for you and do what is necessary to be okay

    -try to not get too caught up in their lives; it can consume you

    -remember you are volunteering your time; your life is yours

    -be careful about personal information you share; do you want people to know where you live, do you want people phoning you at all hours

    -I started my group myself and it was very difficult and at times I wanted to give up. If possible have someone in the group that can assist at least emotionally. This way you can share your concerns and even why you might be upset.


    You will see people’s faces relax as they join the group - they realize they are not alone and/or ‘weird’ hearing other stories will help them and some stories will encourage them.

    It will give you such satisfaction so when things are rough and you want to give up remember that person’s smile in group, or when they do something that they were not able to do before because of the group - these are ‘huge’ gifts - cherish them. When they say thank you - WOW that is a big one.

    The support group has helped me in many ways; struggling with social phobia most of my life I never thought I would be facilitating a support group but it has helped me grow, learn more about myself, learn more about people, I do not take things as personally I used to. I have come to care about the members and almost feel a mother like feeling towards them - they call me Momma Chick - what could be better.