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Posts Tagged ‘support groups’

In Part 1, we discussed support group basics. In Part 2, we discussed considerations for facilitators. Now, in Part 3, we will discuss considerations for attendees, partly in response to a recent Ask Matt letter in which a reader writes: “A few months ago, I started going to a trans-masculine support-and-discussion group as a way to make some connections and try to meet other guys in my area.

“For the most part, these meetings are fantastic. However, there’s one person who comes who’s been frustrating me more and more every week and there are times when I want to take a break from going because of how he acts. I wonder if other people feel as frustrated by him as I do, but I don’t know how to approach the situation and talk to anyone else about it without sounding like a gossipy jerk.

“This man often dominates conversations and loves to make really general statements about all sorts of things: aspects that were true of his history and transition that aren’t true for everyone else, huge blanket statements about how men are vs. how women are, that sort of thing. He also will interrupt other people in really rude ways.

“He’s a good bit older than the other members of the group, and I have a huge amount of respect for him as an elder member of the community, but I also want to feel comfortable there and don’t want new people to hesitate to come back (one person he interrupted in a rude way has already not come back).

“If it was just my own frustration, that would be one thing, but I get the sense that some other people in this group also feel frustrated with his behavior, but nothing really happens. One moderator will occasionally break in and redirect discussion back to an original topic or call him out on his generalizations, but his behavior hasn’t changed. I don’t know him well enough to feel anywhere near comfortable discussing this with him.  Do you have any thoughts?”

One of the biggest complaints that I hear about group attendees is that they are conversation hogs – that they attempt to monopolize the entire group with their problems, issues, and even knowledge.

In this situation, it is really the facilitator’s responsibility to redirect the discussion, and you say that he has tried. It’s not an easy thing to do, and obviously it’s not working. One of the problems could be, as you say, that the guy is older and has been transitioned for a long time. If everyone else in the group, including the facilitator, is younger and newer to transition, it could be intimidating to confront an “elder” – especially one who is so sure that he is right and so rude about his manner of interacting. (more…)

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So ya wanna run a support group? Facilitating a trans support group can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. It’s also a lot of work – that’s right, I said work.

While it might sound both fun and prestigious to be a support group facilitator, if it doesn’t take at least a little bit out of you every time you do it, you might not be doing it right. But by the same token, if it doesn’t give at least a little bit back – and usually far more – you might not be doing it right, either.

Today, I offer some suggestions for facilitators and those considering the position. I’m sure our readers, many of whom are support-group veterans (aren’t we all?), will have some other thoughts and offerings as well. Did I do all of these things perfectly when I led the trans man support group in Denver? Not a chance. And you won’t, either. But they are helpful to keep in mind.

1. It’s not just an adventure – it’s a job. Probably 99.99 percent of group facilitators are not paid for their work. Nevertheless, you must treat it as a job. That means showing up on time (“early” is “on time” for facilitators); greeting attendees and making them feel welcome and comfortable; reading rules, policies, and fee schedules (if applicable); taking attendance (if applicable); handling introductions; monitoring the conversation and keeping it flowing; redirecting rule breakers, conversation hogs, and cliquish whisperers; ensuring proper breaks; restarting on time; closing the meeting; staying until the last attendee has left; and closing up shop.

You should also be responsible for ensuring that the group times and location are posted in accessible places or that contact info is posted for those who want this information if it is not wise to post it publicly. There should also be some way for new members to contact you ahead of time for support and reassurance, because most will be terrified to come to that first meeting. You are their contact – you must be ready for them when they arrive at the group. (more…)

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I have so much to say about support groups (I know you’re not surprised) that I am presenting a three-part series on the topic. Today’s post, Part 1, will deal with Support Group Basics – things every trans support group should have. Part 2, which will be up Monday, will be for group facilitators (but everyone should read it). Part 3, next Thursday, will be for group attendees and will be, in part, a response to a new Ask Matt question.

I want to be clear that I am not the final word on support groups, but I did run a support group for trans men for almost six years. Did I make mistakes? Plenty. Did I learn from the experience? You bet. But I’m sure I didn’t learn everything there is to know – that’s what the comments section is for.

Overall, I think this discussion is absolutely necessary, because I’ve been hearing so many complaints and concerns about support groups lately, and it’s a shame, because they can be incredibly beneficial. There is nothing like face-to-face contact with other trans people to help you get information and figure out who you are and where you belong. But support groups, if not handled correctly, can be, at the very least, useless, and worst-case scenario, they can cause serious damage. So let’s start out by looking at what, in my opinion, every support group should have:

1. A dedicated facilitator (or co-facilitators). This is a person (or people) who takes responsibility for announcing the group, coming early to welcome attendees, facilitating the group, and closing down the group and facility. This is a person who is so responsible that if he/she is sick or has a life crisis, he/she will find a backup to run the group and not just not show up. It helps to identify backups early on for just such an emergency.

The group facilitator should be trans. There are two exceptions to this: If the group is specifically a therapeutic group run by a non-trans therapist who works with trans people, or if an LGBT organization has seen the need for a group, but no trans facilitator can be found. In the second case, it is likely that a “leader” will emerge from the attendees – someone who has the makings of a good facilitator. When the non-trans facilitator spots this “leader,” he or she should approach that person to become the facilitator or co-facilitator of the group.

In both cases, attendees should be made aware from the outset that the group leader is not trans. The leader can make this clear in his or her introduction at the beginning of every group. (more…)

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