Leadership & Management

10 Tips for Facilitating a Support Group

By Karen Saperson (@KarenSaperson)
Originally Published, April 13, 2020

Editor's note: Many of us will be seeking to support our team members through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. This recent JAMA article highlights some of the issues around mental health of our clinical colleagues during these stressful times. However, regardless of the reason you are establishing a peer support group, here are some tips that might help you in your facilitation skills.  For more on this topic, please check out a recent video interview that I conducted with Dr. Saperson on this topic. - Teresa Chan

1. Prepare for the meeting.

2. Communicate clear instructions to the group at start of meeting. 

Review important “housekeeping items” such as:

3. Be inclusive, allowing everyone to state their concerns.

4. Demonstrate empathy.

5. Validate participants’ concerns.

6. Listen actively and use facilitation skills.

7. Aim for consensus if possible, and if not, highlight the value of respectful differences.

8. Maintain neutrality.

9. Highlight themes as a way of group wrap-up and use as a springboard for the next group.

10. Provide a summary of any action items that emerge from the group’s discussion.

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If you enjoyed this post, please also check out the video interview between Dr. Karen Saperson and Dr. Teresa Chan. 

Karen Saperson (@KarenSaperson) is a professor of psychiatry and Associate Chair, Education in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences. She is the academic head of the division of geriatric psychiatry at McMaster University and the current chair elect of the Royal College Geriatric Psychiatry Specialty Committee. Her research focuses on medical education, particularly in the area of assessment and education policy development. Karen specializes in geriatric psychiatry, and her most recent publication ​highlights collaborative care for older adults with psychiatric disorders. Karen has held several medical education leadership positions and received various teaching awards for her contributions to medical education in Canada.