Thinking of joining a support group or interested in facilitating one but dont have any idea what to expect? John McManamy, a former journalist and creator of McMans Depression and Bipolar Web, who facilitates a support group run by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Princeton, describes a typical meeting in his group.
Welcome and Check-In
The facilitator opens the meeting with a brief welcome and establishes the ground rules. Individual facilitators have their own styles. I have a very strict list of dos and donts:
Check guns and knives at the door.
No dancing on tables.
Believe it or not, some groups have even stricter rules.
Our two-hour meetings are divided into two parts: 1)check-in, and 2) discussion of issues and topics that come up from the check-in.
The check-in is our opportunity to find out how everyone in the group is feeling. The check-in list includes sharing:
- your name;
- your particular diagnosis;
- howyoure feeling on a scale of 1 to 10, with 5 being in the middle of normal;
- any trouble youve been having with meds/diet/exercise/sleep;
- any particular stressors in your life;
- a recent success story; and
- any topics youd like to discuss during the second half of the meeting.
The check-in is designed to elicit how well or unwell someone is feeling. A person may say he is doing well, but the answers he gives to various questions on the check-in list may completely contradict this.
For instance, a person may say she is undergoing a meds adjustment. Is this routine, or are the persons meds truly not working? If so, this person may require special attention. We dont second-guess the individuals psychiatrist, but weve all been through meds adjustments and we can share our experiences in how to get through what can be an extremely trying time.
Or a person may say hes not exercising because of a meds side effect. Is this a legitimate trade-off? Lets talk about that
If we suspect a person is in crisis, we will immediately tend to that persons needs. Generally, we can get to the bottom of the issue in 20 minutes.