Things to consider when leading support group meetings

Whether you are starting a support group or managing an existing group the leadership of the group is critical. While this and not a complete list -- there is no all-encompassing list. Here are some things we suggest you consider:

  • Keep meetings positive and encouraging. When a problem is presented, encourage other members to come up with positive ways to deal with it.While members need to be able to bring up problems, you always need to bring the focus back to finding solutions.
  • Be a better listener than you are a talker. People need to be able to share their problems with someone who understands what they're going through but they don't need to hear all of the leader’s problems.
  • Remember that the leader set the tone for the meeting. We all have bad days and bad moods, but try not to let yours show in front of the group. or they soon follow suit.
  • Develop your own personal support system. Find one or two trusted friends with whom you are comfortable sharing your personal struggles. You need individuals in your life who will celebrate with you on good days and comfort you on bad days.
  • Connect with other support group leaders. Whether you meet in person, talk on the phone, or communicate through e-mail, it is helpful to develop relationships with other support group leaders. You can exchange meeting ideas, share strategies, troubleshoot problems and encourage one another during those times when you wonder whether it's all worth it.
  • Be on the lookout for other potential leaders. When you find a group member who seems to have leadership qualities, consider training her to back you up in case you are unable to attend a meeting. Even if you have a co-leader, it's good to have someone in training just in case. Leading doesn’t always mean managing all aspects of the support group.
  • Talk with the group and make sure they understand that the group depends on everyone's participation. If members take responsibility for different jobs, some specific tasks could include:
    • Communications persons: responsible for creating/ maintain an updated contact list, send emails about meting times/ locations other relevant info, etc.
    • Meeting planner: a person that is in contact with the facility for sch. conflicts, instructions for use of the facility
    • Meeting room set-up and putting out materials for a mtg
  • Set limits and stick to them. It is easy to have the meeting hijacked by a few group members who want/ or end up dominating a meeting. While members need to be able to bring up issues/ problems, you always need to bring the focus back to finding solutions