These are just examples to get you thinking, feel free to share your session however you feel called to share.
Start with Some Group Guidelines
Providing group guidelines at the start of a session is beneficial for three main reasons:
It lays the ground rules for a safe space (always refer to the ShareWell ground rules at a minimum & add something on top if you like). It sets up expectations for everyone in the session. It clarifies what is or isn’t acceptable & can be helpful if you need to remind someone later that they are violating an established group It clarifies what is or isn’t acceptable and can be helpful if you need to remind someone later that they are violating an established group guideline.
Kick-off with a Short Introduction & an Open-Ended Question
Quickly share who you are and why you felt compelled to host your session.After you introduce yourself, it’s time to introduce the group through popcorn introductions. Peers can say their names, where they are from, and answer an open-ended question. Beginningyour session with an open-ended question for all participants can get them warmed up for sharing with each other. Consider asking about people’s experience with the topic, what drew them to this session, or what they’re hoping to get out of the session (if anything specific). This not only gets people talking, it also can lead to potential segues to deeper discussions. Less structure can be a good thing for sharing.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a minute-by-minute schedule! Having less structure can actually be conducive to participants feeling comfortable enough to share. Individuals may feel reluctant to “take up space” by giving a detailed response because they want to be respectful of others and don’t want to “hog the mic.” Knowing designated time is allocatedto discussion can help everyone feel more at ease about taking up airtime and sharing their thoughts and experiences. It also gives quieter participants more opportunities to speak up and assert themselves when it feels appropriate for them to do so.
Responses and Silences
It can be tempting to respond to each person who speaks in a group. This can make the speaker feel heard, but it can also make it hard for other group members to have space to respond. Try letting a few seconds of silence pass before you jump in: this could give other participants a chance to process and speak – they might respond and keep the conversation flowing naturally! Prolonged silence might feel awkward, but it doesn’t mean the session isn’t going well or isn’t helpful to the participants. It can be healing for people to sit in silence when they feel emotionally safe in a group. Group silence creates a nice pause for people to think and process what has been discussed.
Inviting Quieter Participants to Speak Up
Sometimes there are more vocal participants and more reserved participants. If you’re looking to engage your quieter participants, you can direct the conversation towards them by inviting them to contribute, such as, “For those who haven’t shared much today, what is it like for you to be in this session today?” In smaller, more intimate conversations, you can invite someone to share their thoughts directly, if they feel comfortable doing so.
Now that you have a few best practices, we look forward to you testing them out. Hosting a peer support session is easier than you think—plus, you’ll get a chance to grow your peer support skills and help others, while healing yourself.
Now get excited about hosting your first session and welcome to the host community!