How can I balance the various needs of support group members?
February 17, 2009 8:41 PM Subscribe
I would like to learn to better facilitate a stress support group.
I volunteer with a women's centre and I'm currently co-facilitating a support group (with 8-10 female participants) called "Stress to Strength". I've lead one group before on a semi-related topic. The facilitator is supposed to guide the discussion, enforce the rules that the group establishes, foster an accepting atmosphere, etc. The group's main purpose is to provide emotional/social support but we also try to bring some education into the mix (e.g. the value of meditation, stretching, nutrition, exercise)
I ran into a problem last week though, when one older (60+) woman started disclosing really specific information about her personal issues. For example, we were discussing "symptoms of stress" and then she launched into talking about how she's a compulsive hoarder, how she's fearful of losing her mind, how she's isolated, etc.
Often, if someone brings up a tough question, I might flip it around and ask the group. (If someone says they feel isolated, I would ask how others have formed friendships.) With this woman though, I can't flip every question to the group because we'd end up talking about her all night long.
I think she has a lot of really intense needs that a casual support group will not likely be able to meet. It seems like her questions and issues relate to really personal, deep-seated anxieties and fears and not the kind of daily stressors we plan to discuss - and we think will benefit the most number of people.
How do I balance her need for attention and support with the needs of the other participants? How can I nip her long stories in the bud and keep the group on-topic without making her feel judged or like she can't share her feelings? How (if this is a good idea at all) could I suggest that she may want to look into other support options to supplement the group?