Facilitating Groups – Part One

Our whole lives will be spent going in and out of groups. From the moment we are born we join a group we call our family, we then go to school and enter the classroom, we then have friendship groups, we may join a football team, a chess club or a swimming club, we then join the work ‘force’ and so it goes on.

Today, I will look at facilitating groups, whether your group is therapeutic, a support group or a social group. Groups follow similar patterns so often the same rules or ideas apply.

As the facilitator of a group your first step will be planning your group. During the planning stage consider the following questions:

- What is your vision?
– What do you see as the purpose of the group?
– What are your aims?
– Who is your target group?
– Do you need public liability insurance?
– Do you need an enhanced disclosure (if working with children or vulnerable adults)?

Potential participants need to be clear as to what the group is and why they are coming so make this as clear as you can. Careful thought and consideration should also be given to the venue, so consider:

- How many people you expect to attend.
– Is the venue accessible to participants with a disability?
– Is there public transport near the venue, parking etc?

You then need to think about publicity and the marketing of your group. Consider the time frame needed to promote your group. Do not leave it to the last minute, 6-12 weeks is often enough time to promote most groups.

Before your first participant calls you need to consider the joining process:

- Will it be a drop-in group?
– Do you want payment in advance?
– Is there a cancellation period or a refund policy?
– How will you treat the data you receive from participants?
– Once you have covered these aspects you are ready to think about the group itself.

Give thought to how you will set up your room. It is usually ideal to arrange chairs in a circle; this allows each participant of the group to see all the other participants. It makes the group feel inclusive; everyone is a member of the group.

At the beginning of the group process it is important to go through some house keeping so everyone knows where he or she is and what is expected of him or her. Make it clear what would happen in the event of an emergency.

- Where is the meeting point?
– Where are the nearest fire exits?
– Will there be coffee breaks?
– What time do you expect to finish?

If you have a large group it can be helpful to start the group process by allowing the group to splinter off into smaller groups which will promote comfort and ease. It’s easier to start to get to know one or two people at first then go on from there. A small exercise in 2s or 3s will be sufficient for this task. Ask people to tell others in the group their name and something about themselves, you can then ask them to relay some of the information back to the bigger group. It’s less intimidating for people to address the bigger group when they have had some practice in a smaller setting. For more tips on ice breaking exercises you can research the Internet where there is a wealth of information.

Setting boundaries is important for the whole group and for the facilitator. It allows participants to feel safe and allows you as a facilitator to set up a working framework for your group. Setting boundaries or agreements work best if the group draws it up. So ask your group what they want on the list, some helpful boundaries or agreements may include:

- Confidentiality
– Respect for others
– Only one person talking at a time
– Mobiles on silent
– Taking personal responsibility
– Time keeping

It is important to check back with the group what they mean by certain suggestions. What do they mean by confidentiality or respect for others? We all have our own ideas on what things mean so check it out.

Remember as a facilitator to lead by example, if you start coming in late to the sessions don’t be surprised if the rest of the participants follow suit.

Next time…. Stages of Group Development…..

If you are interested in having coaching session in Loughton or South Woodford on aspects of group work, please contact me for further information.

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