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Skilled facilitators become comfortable feeling uncomfortable…

Learning objectives for Module Four, Mastering Peer Facilitator skills, includes the ability to list and describe essential facilitator skills. It also addresses why continually moving toward mastering them leads to creating and maintaining safe group experiences, which is why ADOH exists. The training and community help equip and support peer facilitators in creating and sustaining safe groups where partners can move forward in their recovery journeys.

The workbook and training identify the scope of peer facilitator skills, builds awareness of how to effectively use them, and a growth mindset toward mastering them. As guiders of the group process, peer facilitators function as coordinators and pro-active planners while remaining empathetic, flexible, and intuitive! For example, peer facilitators:

  • Take participants’ unique needs, strengths, preferences, personal goals, culture, and backgrounds (including traumatic events) into consideration when defining a group’s purpose and goals.

  • Ensure group content and group process meet the needs of the whole person – spiritually, emotionally, physically, and socially.

  • Create a safe and learning group experience, using various communication techniques including empathetic active listening, open-ended questions, and clarifying statements.

  • Identify essential facilitator skills and strategies to help select group content and guide the group process.

Remembering who we are, how far we’ve come in our own recovery, and what it took for us to get here guides us in effectively applying these skills. We understand that those who join our groups did so because they entered a-world-turned-upside-down after discovering their spouse or partner’s sexual betrayal. As Lynda Ward describes in her post on the C-SASI website, partners need space, time, and support while ‘living in the gap’ between what their life was and their new life ahead.

Guiding groups through the betrayal trauma recovery journey requires the peer facilitator to do hard things

We also understand the potential depth and breadth of dissimilarities within each group – thus, facilitator challenges, and our need to “become comfortable feeling uncomfortable”. Brenda Petruska described her experience developing this skill like this: "Being comfortable with being uncomfortable was difficult for me. I’m a first child, first grandchild on both sides of the family, and I come from a line of ‘fixers’ so to sit in the uncomfortableness was something I had to really practice. Feel the feels and get comfortable with them."

And, embracing the recovery journey requires group members to do hard things too

Before joining a group, partners already accomplished hard things! They pushed through fears, earthquake-level emotional upheaval, and debilitating uncertainty about who to trust or where to turn for help, and not experience further harm. And then one day they discover a group specializing in supporting others walking through similar experiences. Desperate, they bravely take a courageous step, join a group where they receive and give support, encouragement, learn new tools, make life-changing connections, and move forward in their healing

Peer facilitator perspectives

"After becoming a coach and practicing the skills, I am still amazed at my tendency to be 'me' centered. It is a lifelong process to master these skills, and hold sacred space for others, allowing their souls to emerge and be known and understood. When this happens, groups are powerful and are transformative. Becoming comfortable being uncomfortable ... groups are diverse in make-up. For example, age, cultural, spiritual beliefs, doctrine, impact of trauma, types of action out by spouse, and many others. These differences impact how a group comes together and at times it may be uncomfortable as a facilitator. Acknowledging the emotions of being uncomfortable helps move toward being comfortable with the emotion." Margaret Johnson

"Normalizing uncomfortable moments is part of creating space to work through pain and trauma. Honoring diversity in unity strengthens a group bond and demonstrate unconditional devotion to grow together. Healthy conflict is welcome. Practicing empathy, responding proactively to group dynamics, remaining relational, balancing objectivity with vulnerability, and time tracking are some skills the facilitator is responsible for. Balancing chosen goal topics with fruitful rabbit trails is an important skill as well. Being sensitive to verbal and non-verbal communication is a way to continually monitor the temperature and health of the group." Julie St Onge

"As a facilitator becoming comfortable with our uncomfortableness through being aware of dissimilarities in the group can bring the group to a sense of unity. Mutual respect and acceptance of our differences can make us stronger together. Through the facilitator checklist and self-reflection, I can clearly see my strengths and areas of weakness/blind spots where I need to continue to work to maintain the safety of the group. One of the most important skills is empathy, demonstrating I can identify with a partner’s feeling and situation and staying out of judgement. Being able to connect with the partner’s emotion and hear their truth. Other areas that I will continue to work on mastering include active listening, non-verbal communication, as well as continuing to become better informed in areas like gaslighting." Rebecca

We can learn to "become comfortable feeling uncomfortable"

I recognize there’s tension during a conversation about differences in values, beliefs, perspectives.

I feel something inside.

Someone expresses frustration.

I feel uncomfortable

Unsure what to say – or even IF I should respond.

I resist, push away the uncomfortable feeling

I notice my resistance.

I remember… it’s a feeling, it’s normal to feel this way.

I notice my body relaxing.

The uncomfortable feeling disappears.

I decide how to respond.

What helps you navigate uncomfortable moments?

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