Facilitator burnout is probably the greatest risk to the continuation of a support group.
The support group should have a minimum of two facilitators, so that responsibility and commitment are shared, and each facilitator can take time out when they need it. In addition, the support group should be aware of the need for succession and be aware of potential future facilitators.
For more in-depth information on the topics below, please see pages 41–44 in the handbook.
While running a group is rewarding, it takes energy and effort to be there for others. Self-care is necessary. Sometimes when we are working hard to keep our own lives together and helping others as well, there is very little time or energy left for ourselves.
Ways to practise self-care include:
- Eat healthily, and get enough sleep and exercise for your own wellbeing.
- Take time to do activities that you enjoy and that bring you comfort.
- Reflect on the positive things that happen in the group, not just the negative.
- Share your thoughts and feelings with other facilitators, and debrief after each meeting.
- Take time out from the group if you need it, including time for holidays.
- Recognise your own boundaries and limits.
Find out more about The Five Ways to Wellbeing
Supervision refers to a formal arrangement to regularly discuss work with someone who is experienced in both talking therapy and supervision. It helps support a person in the work they are doing, and provides a space for developing knowledge, discussing ethical considerations and self-care.
Supervision is worth knowing about if you are facilitating a group. It is not something you have to do but some facilitators find it useful.
Supervision is a counselling process that offers a confidential setting in which to debrief and reflect on what is going on for you in relation to the work being done. Any concerns can be explored and discussed, including negative emotions such as anger, fear and sadness. You can also reflect on positive emotions – for example, joy at someone else’s personal growth or surprise at how far you have come yourself.
Good supervision can support both the person receiving it and the work they are doing. Supervision can also provide a form of education (almost like mentoring), in that it builds your knowledge about what you are doing.
Supporting yourself when other people’s stories resonate with you
An effective facilitator is not someone who is void of emotional reaction or feelings. As a suicide-bereaved person, your own grief may be activated or triggered during group sharing. If this happens, take time after the meeting to debrief and share with a co-facilitator, trusted friend or counsellor, or in supervision.
You must be able to discuss or somehow process your reactions to intense emotional content (while keeping group members' confidentiality). Not doing this can contribute to emotional exhaustion or burnout.
Seeking counselling support
To get effective counselling support for suicide loss, it is best to find a counsellor or psychologist who has specific skills or a specific interest in this area. Questions you can ask include:
- What experience do they have in suicide bereavement?
- Do they have lived experience? This is not necessarily essential, but it is useful for you to know.
- Are they comfortable working in this subject area?
- Have they had professional development or undertaken skills training in the area of grief and bereavement or suicide loss?
- Go here for more information on how to find a GP or counsellor.
For more information, see page 59 in the handbook.
Finding new facilitators
You or another facilitator may choose to leave a group at any time, for any reason. This should always be respected.
However, if a facilitator is leaving, how will the group continue? Sometimes support groups have to close when a facilitator cannot be replaced.
Sustainability is therefore important – the ability of a group to be able to successfully continue when a facilitator leaves. A group may wish to discuss the issue of sustainability when setting up and think about a succession plan – a plan to find a replacement should a facilitator leave. This plan can include being aware of potential future facilitators among current group members, knowing who to ‘shoulder tap’ and giving group members the chance to practice facilitating meetings.
If you are ending your group involvement as facilitator, where possible give group members some warning and time to find a replacement. If a replacement cannot be found in time for group meetings to continue as scheduled, face-to-face meetings may be postponed until a suitable person is found. In the interim, group members can stay in touch, for example via newsletter or Facebook, or by meeting casually for coffee, conversation and companionship.