Preparing for a Group Meeting
- Check our Resources for Group Leaders page and print out copies of the group leader materials, including the Check-in Worksheet, Resource Referral Worksheet, and meeting script.
- Communicate with your group where and when the meeting will be. For online groups be sure you have shared a link and how to connect.
- Review the topic discussed in the last group meeting.
- Review the topic, video, and activity for the current group meeting.
- Bring any materials needed for the current meeting’s activity.
- Set up the technology you’d like to use to play the video for the group. For instance, you may consider downloading the video or streaming from the website if your meeting location has a good internet connection.
Leading a Group Meeting
For each meeting, Group Leader A will do the following:
- Welcome the group.
- Lead the group in reading aloud the purpose statement.
- Review the meeting guidelines.
- Ask each member to participate in a group check-in.
- Review the previous topic you covered as a group.
- Invite members to participate in the meeting’s sharing portion. During this portion, participants can share what they’ve experienced since the group last met, such as how they applied the most recent topic to their life, how they held a boundary, or how they practiced self-care.
- Introduce the current topic by playing the group meeting video* and then inviting participants to share how this new topic may help them in their healing journey.
- Lead the group in a 5–10-minute activity* about the new topic. A couple of these activities require preparation beforehand.
- Invite participants to choose a healing activity that they can do on their own before the next meeting.
- Lead participants in a grounding exercise* to help wrap up the meeting.
- Close the meeting by having participants read aloud the Aspiration Statement.
- Thank the participants for coming and welcome them to socialize afterward, if the venue allows.
Group Leader B will:
- Help to maintain a safe environment.
- Provide support for Group Leader A and group members.
- If someone leaves the group, follow within five minutes to make sure that participant is okay (but give them space if needed).
- Pauses the meeting if grounding is necessary.
- Uphold and maintain guidelines for the group.
*Available in group meeting materials.
Elements of the Script
- We maintain confidentiality by using only our first names and not sharing what happens during our meetings with anyone, even our families, partners, or significant others. In order for participants to feel safe enough to share, they need to feel certain that nobody is going to be telling people outside of the group about what is said during the meeting. Make sure this is well understood by everyone. If participants are joining, ask that they do so from a private setting or to use headphones to ensure that another participant’s comments aren’t overheard.
- We stay present during group and avoid engaging in other activities. It’s important that the group members honor their time together and stay present with each other so that they can build a community and learn together.
- We use appropriate language and don’t raise our voices, no matter the emotions. Sometimes language or tone can be a trigger for people. This guideline helps participants focus on safety by avoiding raised voices, explicit language, or accusatory tones.
- We give support, not advice. Saprea Support Groups are for support, not therapy. Therapy is where advice is given and can be an important part of the healing process, but should be done with a licensed therapist. (See support group vs. therapy question)
- We use “I” statements. When participants use “I” statements, they are reflecting on their own experiences that others may find helpful in their journey. Using “I” statements helps participants stay away from giving advice.
- We share “headlines,” not details of past trauma. In Saprea Support Groups, group members stay focused in the present to help everyone feel safe. By sharing headlines and not details of past trauma, participants reduce the risk of a fellow member becoming triggered during group. Sticking to headlines also makes it easier for participants to avoid comparing their experiences to each other. Such comparisons can lead to thoughts like, “Everyone else had it worse than me; their healing is more important than mine,” and can increase feelings of shame and unworthiness.
- Example of headlines: “When I was six, my older brother started sexually abusing me. The abuse went on for several years. I always felt unsafe, like I couldn’t go home or trust anyone. I wanted to tell my mom, but I didn’t think she’d believe me or care that it was happening. As the abuse went on, I started feeling more emotionally numb. I even started to dissociate, like I was floating out of my body and watching the abuse happen to someone else. These feelings of numbness and disconnection haven’t ever really gone away, even as I’ve gotten older.”
- Example of details: Specifics of the abuse, including what the abuse was (oral, vaginal, anal, voyeuristic, etc.), the physiological responses that resulted, how often the abuse happened, names of body parts involved, and in-depth descriptions of the abusive acts.
- We are quiet while someone else speaks and avoid engaging in side conversation. An important part of Saprea Support Groups is feeling safe and valued. When participants listen to each other, they show that they respect and care about each other. If meeting online, advise participants to refrain from unmuting themselves or posting comments in the chat while another person is sharing.
- We refrain from advertising, selling, or recruiting on behalf of any business or faith-based organization. One of the purposes of Saprea Support Groups is to create feelings of safety where each participant should not worry about being asked to buy something or participate in something that is unrelated to the support group.
- We ask everyone to check in, but sharing is always voluntary. Saprea Support Groups require everyone to check in. By doing so, each participant has an opportunity to observe/check in with their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. They also demonstrate an element of accountability by talking about the healing activity they selected in the last meeting, as well as recognizing a moment from the past week that was a personal triumph.
- We hold ourselves and each other accountable and follow the guidelines of the group. Members of the group should feel a sense of ownership for making sure the group stays safe and provides support. The best way to achieve this is to know the meeting guidelines and to hold themselves and each other accountable. This means reminding fellow participants of the guidelines when necessary, in a kind and respectful way.
- We maintain a safe, predictable meeting by following the script without deviating. The role of the script is to help create safety, provide education, and nurture a sense of community among adult survivors of child sexual abuse. It was written specifically to establish a predictable structure, which helps create a feeling of safety as participants know what to expect each week. Its format is trauma-informed, clinically approved, and tailored to follow best practices.
Triggers and Grounding
Responding to a Crisis
The following are suggested steps when dealing with a crisis. Please feel free to adjust them according to your judgment and intuition.
- Read the Safety Statement.
Safety Statement: Let’s pause and make sure we all feel safe.
- Try a grounding exercise.
Grounding exercises help participants return to a regulated state and can help to de-escalate a potential crisis. Feel free to pick grounding exercises within your group, or you can refer to the grounding exercise in the script and online group materials.
- Dismiss the group.
First, offer the person-of-focus an opportunity to leave or remove themselves from the situation. Encourage them to take a walk to get some fresh air and invite them to return when they feel ready. If they refuse and interfere with the safety and focus of the group, you may dismiss the group to help keep everyone safe. For instance, you might say, “Let’s all take a 5–10-minute break to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.” This pause can give you time as group leaders to check in with the participant who may be struggling and decide how to best support them.
- Encourage participant to call Support Person.
Suggest the person-of-focus call a close friend or family member for support or to come and get them. If this participant is unable to contact a support person and/or you feel that you are unable to handle the situation, please call the emergency number.
- Call emergency number (911 in the US).
If you feel that you are not able to safely manage a crisis, please call the emergency number for your country and allow trained professionals to handle the situation.
- Practice self-care.
Following a crisis or other highly emotional situations, you may find that you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or triggered. It’s important to take time to practice self-care. Once a situation has been resolved, give yourself the time to process what has happened. Some suggestions for processing after a crisis include: journaling and expressive writing to organize your thoughts, seeking professional therapy for support, and checking in with the other group members about the situation and acknowledging its impacts to help regulate emotions before moving on. During these check-ins, it’s important to keep thoughts brief and straightforward, bearing in mind that this is a time for acknowledgement and not for therapeutic processing or rehashing the situation.
Group leaders are not required to go through all the steps in order. Circumstances may arise where leaders need to skip directly to Step #5.
If a crisis occurs outside of group, it can be difficult to know what to do first. If the crisis is communicated through a group text, there may also be some challenges within the group in dealing with the situation. Remember that you are not to act as the group members’ therapist. If the crisis requires immediate help, please contact emergency personnel and authorities.
The following are additional ways that you can support your group.
- Maintain boundaries.
In a crisis situation, it’s important that you hold healthy boundaries and remain calm. You need to recognize what you can and can’t do in these situations. Do not risk your own safety or healing.
- Reference the Three Healing Practices.
The three healing practices are important tools you should use in these situations. Oftentimes, Acknowledgement and Mindfulness are two practices that help the group leader and the group deal with a crisis that occurs outside of group. Remind group members of the coping skills and grounding exercises they practice in group.
- Provide local resources.
When someone is in crisis, they will greatly benefit from resources designed to meet their needs. Connecting that person with resources helps them to begin building their support network. In some areas, calling 211 can connect you with these local resources. For resources outside of the US, please check with local authorities. Remember, if a situation is life threatening, feel comfortable calling 911 or the emergency number in your country.
- Practice self-care.
Once a crisis subsides, take time to care for your personal needs by using a grounding exercise, healing activity, personal support, and professional help, if possible. Send the members of your group messages of encouragement to do the same. Before starting the script at your next group meeting, acknowledge the crisis situation and that it may have been difficult or triggering for those involved. Keep your thoughts brief and straightforward, bearing in mind that this is a time for acknowledgement and not a rehashing of the situation.
- Follow up.
Following up with the other group members can reassure them that their experience is also recognized and reaffirms the standard of group safety for everyone. You can send positive messages to the person-of-focus that they may or may not respond to. Don’t feel like you need to stay in constant contact—maintain your boundaries.
Conflict during group most often occurs when a participant violates the Meeting Guidelines. Some examples might include when a participant:
- Feels the need to share their whole story with as many details as possible, causing others to be triggered.
- Doesn’t wait until someone is done sharing or engages in side conversation while another participant is still sharing.
- Gives unwanted feedback or tries to solve the problem.
- Attacks another participant, either verbally or in the video chat, because they were triggered by what that participant said.
- Makes indirect comments toward another participant during their share.
During these situations, it’s important to be both kind and assertive. Your main priority is to ensure that everyone in the group feels safe. Try to gently reinforce good behaviors without calling anyone out or assigning full responsibility on one person.
This may sound like: “It is wonderful how brave and vulnerable everyone is being. As we continue, I would like to remind us of our guidelines. For example, remember that as you share, stick with headlines, not details. Thank you everyone for helping maintain safety.”
When it’s appropriate, pull the participant aside after the meeting to discuss any concerning behavior. When you do so, communicate your concern with kindness and clarity, ensuring the participant doesn’t feel attacked. Remind them about the culture and guidelines of the group and give them clear examples of when they deviated from these guidelines.
This may sound like: “This group provides an opportunity to listen and be heard. This means allowing everyone the space to share without giving advice. Advice was when you gave suggestions to another participant without asking them for feedback.”
If the problem persists, remind them of the importance of following the Meeting Guidelines in keeping the group safe. Reiterate how vulnerable people can feel while sharing. Encourage self-care.