Facilitators and teachers differ although one person can fill both roles. A teacher communicates information and experiences unknown to the audience and generally has no place in the peer support environment. Peer support groups work best with a facilitator managing the flow of conversation and highlighting learning points resulting from the exchange of lived experiences. Each participant has an experience another can benefit from, similar to a think tank. At PGPS, we fuse the two through the use of illustrations to outline teaching points.
Many peer group participants are in recovery and have learned coping techniques to manage behaviors outside of the baseline. The group is most often used to maintain
self-sufficiency and in some cases serve as the primary system of support. As a result, relating information to everyday life experiences connects participants to a tangible result. One of our favorite activities for this approach is Paint Therapy Night.
nPaint Therapy Nights are a way to relax in a comfortable setting. Participants in attendance are connected directly or indirectly to depression, mood disorders, or anxiety and are less likely to judge social behaviors that may not adhere to most expectations. PGPS facilitators supplement the artist during the event and usually have a wrap-up message at the end or "Did You Know" facts throughout the instruction. Often, participants have never tried painting or don't believe they will be able to recreate the art chosen for the session.
Generally, an instructor-led paint class breaks down the painting into several steps and involves a series of simple techniques. PGPS often uses the activity to introduce goal setting, specifically SMART goals. Much like the finished painting, many aren't confident they will or can complete their life goals. Others can set goals, but have difficulty realizing them as a result of poor management. Goal setting is crucial to the quality of life and spotting distractions that lead us away from our intentions.
The step-by-step painting process illustrates the gradual process of setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-definite goals needed to turn dreams into reality. For example, the idea of being a lawyer could be overwhelming, especially for someone without a high school diploma or GED. Breaking the goal into steps help divide the work into manageable tasks and maintain focus on the result.
This activity works for teens as well. The social aspect is an alternative to the group discussion setup, and it's an excellent springboard to setting goals on levels:
First create your "big picture" goal or what you want to achieve in 10 years.
Then, you break your vision down into smaller targets you need to hit to reach your long-term goal.
After that, you plan your approach by deciding which tasks can be completed in one month, one year, five years, and so on.
Finally, start the steps worked out in your plan to achieve your long-term vision.
The hardest thing about goals is avoiding obstacles and distractions. Some do better than others, needing a coach or accountability partner to make it to the finish line. PGPS recommends setting dates to check in on your plan if you do not have an accountability partner or coach. Directions change both intended and unintended, so it's important to check in frequently, but not so much our goals create negative thoughts and energy. Creating checkpoints are also an effective way to reflect on progress. Growth is a positive experience, and positive experiences drive us forward.
Key Points (for illustration)
•Decide what you want to achieve in your life.
•Separate what's essential from what's irrelevant, or a distraction.
•Motivate yourself by being present and active in your life.
•Maintain your self-confidence by isolating and completing steps toward the result.