It is exciting to see support group participants reach out to one another, cultivate new relationships, and truly connect with others in their group. Surely, there are many great benefits from attending – new friends, new fans, new supporters.
However, if you are paying attention, you may find that smaller cliques are starting to form. Cliques might include those who have had a similar procedure, or surgery at the same time. All well and good as long as new group members don’t feel excluded, left out and like they don’t belong. Here are a few tips to help you ‘manage’ your support group as you do your best to ensure that everyone feels apart, wanted and needed.
- Notice newcomers who may be alone. As a busy group leader, you may not have time to notice yourself, but what if you assigned a few of your veteran patients to serve as sort of a welcoming committee? Patients who have been around awhile, who may be losing interest in support group. Give them an opportunity to give back.
- Be deliberate about segmenting your large group. You may find that what they are seeking is more intimate conversation. Many feel more comfortable sharing and asking questions in smaller groups. If your group is large, consider having them meet all together for the first half- then let them know that they will have the opportunity to join smaller discussion groups for the last half. Organize them by topic interest, stage of weight loss, month of surgery, type of procedure, or any number of ways.
- Know your support group members. This takes not only focus, but skill. It’s hard sometimes to remember names let alone a patient’s likes and dislikes. But imagine how united your group would feel if you gave them opportunities to share with one another more than just their weight, their non-scale victories and their questions. Learning to live a bariatric lifestyle is about more than just food. Give them a chance to connect on another level. Feature more lifestyle lesson discussions like relationship changes, fitting in, exchanging habits, paying it forward. Help them be people, not just patients.
- Play fun, interactive getting to know you games. Having a fun, participatory activity during support group, will help all members stay involved and engaged. By organizing teams you will give them the opportunity to mix and mingle with other group members they may not otherwise know.
- And, yep, as you may know we have lesson plans, games and activities ready to go. Check them out: (Digital Support Group Lesson Plans).