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Answering these questions might help you get started...

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Support groups often have a theme or purpose- survivor’s group, grief group, family group.  Traditional groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon for family and loved ones of those suffering from addiction have very specific purposes. A group for women living with HIV could serve several different purposes.  Also, the purpose or theme of your group will guide the discussion topics for each group. 

What is the purpose of your group?  Will you have a theme?

 Is it older women, women ages 18-35, dually diagnosed women, newly diagnosed women, all women? Identifying your target population will allow you to set parameters for eligibility.  It will also allow you to anticipate potential needs of the women who will be coming to your group.

Who is your target population?

Screening can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.  Participants may only be clients of your organization so you already have their information.  If your group is restricted to a particular population, you may have interest from outside of your organization.  It is good to have a short list of questions to determine if prospective participants are eligible.

How will you screen the women who want to participate?

Will you use a prepared curriculum or pre-determined activities?

There are a number of tested and untested curricula on the market. Much of it you can find through a quick Google search.  It is always good to have several ice-breaker activities in your tool box.  Icebreakers are short activities that assist group members in getting to know each other, and you.

Are there any people who wouldn’t be allowed in your group?

There may be some individuals who are not well-suited for your group.  Severe health issues, severe mental health challenges, or other observed behaviors may preclude a person from participating in your group.  You will want to try to pre-determine what these things might be as early as possible.

Will your group be open or closed? 

An open group will allow anyone to join at any time.  A closed group means that after the start, or sometimes the second meeting, no new members are allowed to attend.  Closed groups are sometimes necessary if you are following a formal curriculum with progressive action steps and learning activities.  Participants may miss valuable information if they enter the group once the program has begun.

Participants in your group may have children, grandchildren, or be caretakers for multiple individuals.  Offering childcare may increase the chances of participation for some. Volunteers for your agency may be willing to assist with childcare during your group.  Be knowledgeable of any liability issues that may accompany providing childcare for group members.

Will you provide childcare?

Collecting demographic information on your participants and tracking their progress can be helpful in evaluating effectiveness and applying for additional funding.

Will you collect any data on your participants?  (demographics, surveys, etc.)

Location is important. Your group may meet at your organization or at a partner organization’s facility.  Make sure that the location is accessible to your participants, especially if they use public transportation.

Where will your group meet?

Depending on the time of day, snacks can be a lifesaver for your group.  Light snacks for daytime groups or groups that meet after hours can be a good energizer for participants.

Will you provide food or snacks?

What else do you need to know?

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