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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Support Group Ideas

Q. I am a staff member and also a consumer of an intensive day treatment facility. I lead group sessions for a Peer Support Group. I am desperate for new ideas/subjects for such a group. Can you help?

A. My own view is that the subjects and ideas in a support group should flow naturally from the overall goals of the group and the specific, changing needs of the group members. Group leaders should not have to keep things going with artificially-generated topics--though leaders may be helpful in getting a very timid group unblocked, by addressing its unspoken fears and concerns.

That said, you may want to take a look at a few articles on peer support groups, as well as check out some potentially helpful websites. Chinman et al have an article entitled, "Chronicity reconsidered: improving person-environment fit through a consumer-run service", in the Community Mental Health Journal, June 2001 (37:215-29). Also see the piece by Franco et al, in J Subst Abuse Treat 1995;12:227-32, on self-help approaches on inpatient settings for dual diagnosis patients. Some websites you might check include www.supportweb.org, and www.alphalink.com.au. Both provide links and helpful information relating to peer groups.

Finally, you may also want to speak with the mental health professionals at your day treatment facility, to see if they have any insights on what might be holding the group back, if that is what you feel is happening--there's no need to feel desperate on your own!

February 2002

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