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It's complex

Our nine-week series highlighting the ADOH peer facilitator training content continues with Module Three: The peer facilitator role and principles.

Learning objective: Participants will a) be able to give an overview of the peer facilitator role in meeting the partner's complex needs within the small group experience, and b) the connection between peer facilitator principles and effectively fulfilling the demands of the role.

The peer facilitator role: Dancing with dynamic tensions

Describing the peer facilitator role as dancing with dynamic tensions, Enhancing Facilitation Skills: Dancing with Dynamic Tensions research author Rita Sinorita Fierro begins: "Facilitation can be a tricky topic. Is it a discipline? A practice? Is it as natural a function to human beings as walking or talking? Or is it an acquired skill? An art? Facilitation is all of the above: both a natural and an acquired skill, art, and discipline. One can facilitate an informal lively discussion at a dinner table without formal training with common sense, tact, and listening skills. But the more diverse participants are, the higher the expectations and the stakes; and the wider the gap between people's perspectives, the more complex facilitating can be." (Emphasis added)

Peer facilitators

  • Instead, while guiding discussions, we ask empathetic questions, practice active listening, encourage interaction and participation from all members while mediating between opposing viewpoints.

  • Managing time, process, and content, we ensure ALL members’ views, stories, and truths are heard as we establish a safe place at the table for each member.

  • Remaining objective, we step back from content, our personal history and values in the middle of often painful sharing of traumatic experiences or opposing values.

  • Staying focused, we identify and effectively respond to the needs of both individuals as well as the group's.

We turn to principles when we face difficult and conflicting options. Identifying facilitator principles, and adopting those that will guide us and effectively serve those who find their way to our groups is critical. When facilitating groups with those who've experienced betrayal trauma, participants often feel overwhelmed by multifaceted and conflicting options.

Principles stabilize and “house” our values, providing rich meaning/depth to “how’ we facilitate… beyond our personalities and personal preferences. That point is important. In The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, Steven Covey wrote, “Values are social norms — they're personal, emotional, subjective, and arguable. All of us have values. Even criminals have values. The question you must ask yourself is, are your values based upon principles?”

Peer facilitator perspectives

“I was fascinated by this… as the community connection declines, peer led groups grow dramatically. People visit more peer support groups each year than to all types of mental health professionals combined. But I do see why. I had more growth from a group than any other source in my recovery. The understanding I got from other partners that had walked the path before me or was walking it beside me was priceless.” Brenda Petruska

“Peer support is based on the belief that individuals in similar situations can glean strength and wisdom from each other. A peer facilitator enables that to happen. To accomplish this, we must create the relationships, plan the group and its processes, create an environment where people can share and participate, guide the group toward the desired outcome, build our professional knowledge, and model a positive attitude.” Jana

“In a partner group, principles provide the structure to ensure safety and stability for members and values help to understand a person’s uniqueness and what is important to them. A facilitator can co-create the group by creating ground rules based on principles that group members agree to abide by in the group. For example, ‘there is wisdom in the group, trust the group, and everyone can contribute to that wisdom.' This communicates to each person they are valued, significant, and have purpose created in the image of God.” Margaret Johnson

“Principles root and ground a peer facilitator in a way that will keep her from going ‘off the rails’ by providing stability. The role of a peer facilitator is so multi-faced that she needs invariable, fixed concepts that will direct her as she guides the group. Principles will bring consistency to her role as a peer facilitator and in her life in general.” Kimberly

While listening to this song, I thought about the impact teaching facilitator principles has made in how I structure the training experience. It also reflects my vision for the ADOH community to remain a safe, supported, and sacred space for all who find their way here. "There's room at the table, we saved you a seat."

The next training begins Wednesday, September 23

and registration closes Sunday, September 6

The training includes attending 11 two-hour sessions, reading and completing exercises in the accompanying workbook between sessions, and actively engaging during the sessions. The cost of the training is $200. All applicants complete the "Interest Survey", are interviewed, and complete an application. Spaces are limited. If you are considering joining the September training, click here, complete the Interest Survey, and I will contact you to schedule an interview.

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