Starting a recovery group therapy session

In the pastoral counseling setting, I frequently need to modify my approach for different people and groups. These are some of my ideas for delivering a recovery program. It is a specific program, but I think I would stick by these general ground rules:

Read the following as if you were taking part in the program:

As we start this journey together, I want to formally welcome you here tonight. It will be a journey into our deeper selves as we discover more about ourselves and one another while also becoming more conscious of and cognizant of the difficulties we face.

These are just a few of the things we should keep in mind and follow as we work together on this.

  1. I am requesting your trust of me and of each other. Perhaps some of you don’t trust as much and think you have good reasons to withhold your trust. You will be able to be open about what requires courage to do, though, if you place your greatest trust in me as your guide and in your fellow students here. By putting your trust in this situation, you open yourself up to what God can do in you during this procedure. The journeys of the other people who are present include you. The Spirit of God will move and some of us will experience healing when we put our trust in this group. What is said in this group should stay in this group, of course, even though that probably goes without saying. Is that acceptable and understood? Thank you.
  2. Now to do number 1, you need to be safe. I need to let you know that I am accountable for that as well as the fact that I understand and respect that. This program’s goal is to help you move forward in your healing process. Please be brave enough to step back if you ever feel unsafe or too exposed. Let me know when it’s okay for you to do so, either during the activity itself or during a break. We’ll take it from there, you and I.
  3. Honesty. It was mentioned in point one. Without your honesty in total surrendering and submitting your material, nothing happens here for you and no power of God works. The temptation to externalize—that is, to talk about anything other than your problems—to protect yourself, downplay the severity of your issue or addiction—is what I’m referring to in this passage. Don’t believe you are less capable than any of us; we all do this. However, I urge you to own your own baggage and sin. When you are sharing, stay here. If you minimize anything, minimize the accountability you place on others for tasks that are solely your responsibility. In psychology, there is the term “internal locus of control,” which means we only change when we own what only we can control – our own stuff. The moment we start to believe that other people are to blame for our problems, we forfeit our sole ability to effect change. Let’s all agree that won’t happen here. Yes?
  4. Space to talk. Insofar as you allow me to assist, kindly place your trust in me. The word “facilitate” in French means “to make easy”. Given the nature of the material we’ll be discussing and reflecting upon, please assist me in making this process as simple as it can be, difficult and transformative as it will be. I’ll steer and reroute the conversation. Don’t worry, you’ll have ample time to share, but I do need to ensure everyone gets an equitable opportunity, which is not necessarily “equal” opportunity, because at certain times one person needs more time. For that, we must make room. I will also see things you can’t, because you’re in the process, and sometimes As I identify them, I’ll want to focus on important moments. Please be patient with me and believe in my judgment. I’ll also deliver some teaching, so thank you for your patience. I appreciate it when we can maintain our course and keep the momentum going. Please stay on topic if you choose to speak up. Thank you.
  5. Calling time to process check. Sometimes I’ll call a process check, which is akin to a time-out, if we veer off course or, worse, if someone starts acting inappropriately, especially if others start to feel unsafe. Before continuing, we will need to handle that situation. I’m in charge of keeping us all safe, so I may have to decide on the fate of one person for the good of the group. That’s fine, please?

On all of these points, we should now move forward with your approval.

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