Inclusive Plural Support Groups
See also Peer-Run Group Facilitation Tips New.
We are including boilerplate bullet points for some guidelines for support groups within various communities. Please modify these guidelines to suit your style, the culture you want your group to have, and the platform(s) & meeting types (if any) that your group will be utilizing. Some of these ideas will not be suitable for every group, facilitator style, or platform: they're here to borrow, modify, adapt and change.
These guidelines can be adapted to any type of support group (trauma, substance use, polyam or other lovestyles, sexual orientation, trans issues, etc.), but are primarily intended for a variety of plural-inclusive support groups including trauma healing support. Singular folk are welcome to use these guidelines and hopefully are creating groups open to plurals as well with them.
These suggestions contain some boilerplate text (indented and prefaced with Sample text only:) and considerations for starting & running small (say up to 20 body, depending on format) support groups.
Bare Bones Guidelines
If you want the absolute minimal starting point, here's some guidelines to consider that cover the basics, in a "Let's not complicate this" style:
- Report problems to facilitators.
- Keep it in the room (confidentiality/privacy).
- Treat each other nicely.
- Take turns; share the group with others.
- Take care of your insiders.
- Mind your boundaries kindly.
- Be curious and ask for clarification.
- Trust people's experiences are real for them.
- Only give advice when sought.
- Respect others privacy and space both in and out of the group.
Defining Your Group
It's a good idea to have agreement with everyone about what the group is about. You may have a vision about how you want your group to go or what culture you want to encourage, or who you want to attract to your group. This is your "elevator pitch" if you will.
Trauma Support Group
Define Trauma Support
Provide as many support hotlines as you feel are needed to help your group members, we aren't trying to be US-centric. We're in the US. Try international resources, or regional if you have a regional group. Also, you can ask group members to help create a list of resources for their own areas and list them with the group rules in case someone in their own system needs them as well.
Specialty example: Otherkin Plural Support Group
Decide whether it is a private, closed, or an open-application membership group
Basically the more deep your group will go with support, the smaller the group should be. A general support group that meets for 2-3 hours a week could be up to 20 bodies (10+ minutes per body). Consider also that several members within one body may want a chance to talk during a meeting.
Creating Starting Guidelines
Often groups will have some "attempt to mitigate issues" group guidelines. Below is a discussion of various concerns and some ideas that could be taken as preemptive or suggested wording for creating additional guidelines. See the Tips page for warnings about having excessive rules. However these can be good guidelines to keep in mind to anticipate potential issues for your group and knowing what options there are.
Rewrite or omit etc. as needed. None of this is meant to be just outright used as-is.
- This is a support group, and off-topic or fluff posts may not be well received.
- On topic for this list includes all manners of plurality, including psychiatric diagnosis, spiritual plurality, various types of created headmates including tulpas, fictives, etc. and both somatic this-life in-body experiences and traumatic experiences that are entirely founded on subjective experiences and memory.
- The facilitators will judge whether or not content needs to be culled or whether members need to be redirected to other resources to meet their needs.
- This group is partially self-moderating. If you see something which you believe to violate any of these rules, or to be a problem in and of itself, please contact the list facilitators.
- We ask that non-traumatized system members not post in the group unless it is a meta-discussion (discussing meeting times, external resource sharing, or informing the group about an absence or membership change, etc.).
- System members who have processed or recovered from trauma may share their own experience only in terms of role-modeling or describing what has worked for themselves in the group, as a mentor-role within the group. This will help save body-spaces in the group for others, but please do not overshare or take significant time in group discussions or go-arounds.
- For live group time, please allow everyone to get a chance to speak. If someone wants to be put on the wait list for a turn, signal the facilitator who is taking the wait list for turn-taking and they will let you know when it's your turn to speak. Respect if the facilitators jump to someone who has not spoken yet to make sure they get a chance before the support time ends.
- Constructive criticisms are allowed on this list under some circumstances. They are allowable when respectful, gentle, above-board, and with obvious intent to point out someone's flaws to help them, and not to further your own pursuits or personal prejudices against a person. If you plan to confront someone on an issue, please contact the facilitators to alert them to what you are trying to do if possible. Asking the person's permission to talk to them during the group about it would be helpful as well, if that's at all possible.
- If the subject line doesn't reflect the content of a post you're replying to, please change the subject line. This is a courtesy, and helps us keep track of things in the future, and will even help you to see when people are responding to *your* posts.
- No one-liners. (ie: posts that are extremely short.) Try to consolidate posts (at least within a topic) or replies to a thread into one slightly longer post if you find yourself posting many one-liners. Use reacts or hold off until you can incorporate your reaction into something that expresses something of note to the group as a whole. You can agree, fist-bump, thank, or hug someone after.
Note: above is very important when doing an email list, or when forum design creates excessive scrolling through a dozen "Me too!" or "Yeah!" posts. Forum react buttons help, as do incorporating thanks, agreement, me-too, etc. into something that contributes clarity, information, or shared experience to the conversation as a whole.
- Note the limitations of conveying context and emotions in a text-only forum. If you speak in the self-referential (I or we (body or subset of body folk)) it is much safer than if you use the general term "you" when talking about something. Someone may take it personally.
- Off-topic should be limited and labeled such ("Off-Topic" or "OT") in the subject line. Members should avoid responding to OT posts on list. Try to take posts that are OT out of the group to discuss elsewhere as soon as possible by not replying at all or by replying offlist. It's ok if a portion of a post is OT as long as it's somehow on topic for the post in itself, but if you find yourself responding only to the offtopic portion of the post, try to take it offlist or to <suggest a related or general non-support-group chat space here>.
- Please limit fluff posts on the list. Fluff should be labeled "Fluff:" or "--fluff" in the subject line. "Fluff" is non-serious posts which contain no actually useful content that contributes to the conversation or requires no support. Members should avoid responding publicly to 'fluff' posts. Fluff posts of a general enough nature for everyone to enjoy the joke are okay if they're not at anyone's expense, and when clearly labeled "fluff", but are not okay if they are so much an in-joke that very few people on the list will get it. If this is the case, write the joke to them privately and don't post in the shared space. If you like to make a lot of fluffy comments, it's suggested that you join <general/joke/meme non-support group/chat> and redirect the jokes & fluff there instead.
- Don't respond to facilitator announcements in the group unless asked to or it requires immediate clarification. Respond as instructed or directly to the facilitator who posted, or facilitator group.
- If need be, group guidelines can be discussed and revised with the whole group's feedback if enough people have a problem with them, but keep in mind that it will take a lot of group time and spoon resources to do so.
- Confidentiality: everything said in the group stays in the group. It is a safe(r) space for discussing potentially sensitive information. Members who break confidentiality may be banned from the group.
- Please disclose if you are a mandated reporter upon asking to be part of the group.
You're going to want to know. If the group members are Ok with that, then this may work. Otherwise you may not be able to grant them membership. A mandated reporter may have to report suspected abuse or suicidal intentions to law enforcement.
- In a text-based forum, humor may fall flat, sarcasm may be lost or found at random. If you don't understand what someone is saying or you cannot take it at face-value or find yourself reading into it to interpret it, it is a good practice to stop before reacting to it, and ask for clarification. Assume that people do not mean what they have written as an attack.
- No flaming is allowed. That is to say, no generic inflammatory comments that generalize about any group (on or off list) or that specifically target a member on the list. In addition, talking directly about people who are not on the list would be rude. It's best to talk only about yourself and your own experiences. You get two warnings for this, at facilitator discretion. In some cases, people will be unsubbed and banned immediately.
In other words, it's not ok to even talk about exclusionist communities or rant about various groups or other people's specific behaviors in themselves, but it's Ok to mention them if they're a part of a topic in need of support directly. Why? Because support group members who may have been (or may still be) a part of those communities, or who have those behaviors, etc. will be shamed into hiding it. This is not Ok.
- No judgements, cruelty, harassment, etc. Judgements, cruelty, harassing, flames, etc. will not be tolerated. Gentle and respectful constructive criticism is welcome within those parameters. However note, this is not an encounter group. This list is intended for emotional support, suggestions, and camaraderie for beings experiencing many in one body. By no means are snide remarks, jibes, underhanded comments, backhanded 'compliments' or sarcasm directed at other group members and similar behavior allowed in the group, or relating to conversations in the group. If this happens in-group the facilitators reserve the right to immediately ban the member, otherwise may issue a warning. If the behavior happens off-group between members, the facilitators may warn and ban upon repeated behavior. Please share reports for bad behavior privately not to the group as a whole.
The controversial practice of T-groups/encounter groups ended in the 1980s when it became clear they were (now-terms) ableist and traumatizing for some people and thus counter-productive. They were never meant to be therapeutic for persons with trauma. cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-groups
Whether or not to trigger-warn, or splat sensitive words, may be a choice of venue. If there are spoilers available, if you can make it so sensitive content is "below the fold" or other options exist. This could be a per-group option, but if someone new joins it could shift the whole group culture. In all likelihood different levels of censure will attract different people.
- CW - Content Warnings
- A head's up as to what it contains below. Can just be the topic like is it PG, PG-13, etc. Usually similar to movie warnings and maybe a tag or topic heads up like "Cars - cursing".
- TW - Trigger Warnings
- Something ahead is likely triggering to some people. Topics like CSA descriptions, violence, etc. Sometimes it's hard to put a TW without using the very words that are triggering to describe it, so they can be unhelpful.
- When someone puts asterisks or symbols inside potentially disturbing words, often covering up 1 or more vowels. This gives screen readers problems and can cause issues for people with visual processing or language processing difficulties.
- The Importance of Belonging: Community vs. Support & How to Make it Happen by The Crisses - Video on the importance of being shame-aware in our communities, and building inclusive spaces
- Safer Support Groups: Facilitation for belonging, inclusion & empowerment by The Crisses - Video covering how to create & run screened inclusive support groups