Empathetic listening and support

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Support Group Guidelines

A Support Group can be defined as a gathering of people with common experiences and concerns who meet together to provide emotional and moral support for one another. They encourage a sense of community, a source of empathetic understanding and provide an avenue for establishing social networks. Meetings can take place in person, over the phone or online. Some groups are ongoing, while others have a predetermined start and end or total number of sessions for the group. HOBS support group guidelines focuses on individual and group expectations.

  • The general rule for support groups is that group members are prohibited from disclosing anything that is shared in the meetings. This includes divulging the identity of members who were present. Confidentiality also extends to the personal data of the members. If collected, their names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses must be protected. Some members may be comfortable sharing their contact information, but this should always be left to their discretion. The group also needs to discuss what will happen if confidentiality is breached.
  • A member expressing intent to harm themselves or others and Suspected child abuse or neglect and Suspected elder abuse or neglect and suspected abuse of a disabled individual.

Based on the nature of support groups, many possibilities exist for individuals to become triggered or feel unsafe. Clear support group guidelines about what can and cannot be said or done in meetings will aid the facilitator in maintaining a positive atmosphere. These guidelines may address restrictions on providing graphic descriptions or “war stories”, being in possession of weapons and members who come to the group under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs.

  • It is imperative for everyone to understand the expectations for respect and personal responsibility. These guidelines address common courtesies. Listening without interrupting § Avoiding personal or side conversations during the meeting § Acceptance of differences (including social, cultural, linguistic differences or where an individual is in their recovery journey) § Respecting each other’s opinions Refraining from judging people § Using first-person language (“I” statements) § Sharing the group’s time so that everyone who wishes to share get an opportunity to do so
  • Members can also participate in identifying guidelines they feel would benefit the group.
  • Together, these guiding principles are sometimes referred to as the group’s “Comfort Agreement” and may address areas such as:
  • Clarifying the role of the facilitator(s)
  • Starting and ending time for meetings
  • Cell phone use in the meeting room
  • Taking breaks
  • Attendance expectations (if applicable)
  • Taking notes during meetings
  • Understandings reached about giving and receiving support, instructions or advice.
All the information you have shared with us will be confidential