What Do You Need to Start Your Own Support Group?

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This four-part article covers the importance of support groups for burn injury survivors and the details of beginning your own support group.

  • Creating Emotional Safety in a Support Group 
  • Facilitated and Peer Support Groups
  • Guidelines for Support Groups
  • Support Groups for Children and Teens

 

Creating Emotional Safety In a Support Group

By Megan Bronson, PMHCNS-BC

 

That support groups are helpful to people dealing with a broad range of life challenges, losses, and traumas is well documented. For burn survivors, finding a support group of people who understand the long journey back after a burn injury and who can therefore offer hope and direction in the process of recovery is a godsend. Support groups can decrease the sense of isolation and stigmatization that many burn survivors feel. Being a part of a support group can be the first step in reconnecting socially after burn injury. Every journey begins with a single step, and the step of finding a healthy and healing support group is often an essential one for burn survivors, their families, friends, and caregivers.

ORGANIZING A GROUP

Setting up a support group would seem a fairly simple task—find a room, set a time to meet, decide if the group will be facilitated or self-run by survivors, put out the cookies and chairs, and send out the flyers. Creating emotional safety in a support group is quite another matter and deserves specific attention.

When my daughter was a little girl she used to write recipes for me to try—my favorite was Lion Soup which she wrote at about age 4. The recipe began with “First you catch a lion.” Creating emotional safety in a support group can be like that. What sounds easy can actually be a complex process. However, this process can be broken down into a number of essential ingredients.

ESTABLISHING GUIDELINES

Of the many factors to consider in creating emotional safety in any support group, the most essential are confidentiality, the appropriate responses to feelings and the practice of unconditional presence, and a respect for boundaries. Setting the ground rules regarding these specific factors at the beginning of each support group establishes the safety for the group. It is important to briefly restate these ground rules even if the same group of people meet consistently and anytime people arrive after the ground rules have been stated.

MAINTAINING CONFIDENTIALITY

Establishing the confidential nature of what is shared in the group is an essential ground rule for any support group. Stating clearly, “What is shared in this room, stays in this room,” and then asking the group members to commit to this boundary is the beginning of establishing group safety. It is not okay to share other people’s stories or details of their life that they might choose to reveal in a support group. Maintaining confidentiality is essential to the foundation on which the emotional safety of a support group rests.

CREATING A SAFE PLACE FOR FEELINGS

Many people were taught that some feelings are acceptable and others are not, that some feelings are negative and others are positive, and that somehow we need to be rescued from our feelings, especially painful ones such as anger, sadness, hurt, fear, hopelessness, helplessness, and guilt. Many people have had their feelings shamed in their family of origin and have anxiety about risking sharing feelings in a group. The reality is that in order to move through grief and recover from trauma, both of which often accompany burn injury, survivors need to be able to feel and release their feelings.

When the following basic principles about feelings are honored, safety for feelings can be created in a relationship or a group:

  • Feelings are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad. All feelings are okay and do not require either a negative or positive judgment.
  • Feelings are meant to be transient visitors, they are not meant to take up permanent residence in our psyche.
  • Telling someone they should or shouldn’t feel something does not help them, but rather causes feelings to become distorted or blocked.
  • Feelings can be released when they are heard with compassion, empathy, respect, and a lack of judgment. This is what unconditional presence means.

RESPECTING BOUNDARIES

Respecting the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual boundaries of members of a support group is also an essential element in creating group safety. Sometimes people have difficulty hearing the struggle, emotional pain, or seeing the tears of another without needing to rescue them. This is most often due to some unresolved issue or pain of their own. Rescuing can present in a support group as interrupting, telling people what to do about their problems, and/or physical rescuing, such as uninvited or unsolicited hugs.

Respect for spiritual boundaries requires that the group be accepting of and a safe space for diverse religious and spiritual belief systems. It is not appropriate to use the group’s time to try to convince people about any specific religion or spiritual belief. Many burn survivors share profound spiritual experiences related to their burn injury and it is, of course, appropriate to share one’s own experience if you choose to.

Telling someone what they should or should not be thinking, feeling, or doing is most often not helpful. Exceptions to this often occurs at the end of a group meeting after everyone has had a chance to share uninterrupted in the group and the group has naturally moved into a problem solving mode. At this time, sharing specific suggestions or how members have dealt with specific issues can be supportive and helpful. The key is to first allow each member a chance to share uninterrupted.

Many times survivors just need the time to share their story, harrowing as that may be, and to have that heard and witnessed. It is also important to establish that there is not an expectation that everyone share in the group—this clarification also creates safety. Whoever is facilitating the group needs to be aware of the time and keep the group on task during sharing. Occasionally, there may be someone who dominates the group’s time or who is stuck in their own story, having told it many times in the past. It is important to keep the group moving while at the same time setting limits on monopolizing behaviors in a kind and compassionate manner.

SUPPORTING THE PHASES OF RECOVERY AND HEALING

In Trauma and Recovery (1997), psychiatrist Judith Herman, MD, states that healing after trauma and traumatic loss consists of 3 elements:

  • Remembering and mourning
  • Telling one’s story
  • Reconnecting with life

A well-structured and well-maintained support group can support all three of these necessary phases of healing and recovery after burn trauma. Creating emotional safety is the essential foundation for a support group that truly supports recovery and healing.

 

Reference

Herman, Judith, Trauma and Recovery, New York: Basic Books (1997).

 

Megan Bronson is a psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialist with many years of experience in working with the adult and pediatric burn survivors. She has facilitated many grief and trauma groups nationally and internationally and is a frequent presenter at the World Burn Congress, where she is also one of the facilitators of the open mic sessions.

 

 

FACILITATED AND PEER SUPPORT GROUPS

“ The encounter with others who have undergone similar trials dissolves feelings of shame, stigma and isolation.” Irvin Yalom MD (The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy)

 

PEER SUPPORT GROUPS

Peer Support Groups are comprised of individuals who share a common condition or circumstance such as a burn injury. These types of groups are focused on providing mentoring, emotional and social support, information, education, and practical help to each other. Those who are further along in the rehabilitation and recovery process can provide a sense of hope and direction to those more recently recovering from a burn injury. The expression of mutual caring and concern provides a powerful environment for reclaiming hope. A peer support group may be facilitated by a non-clinical person who is a burn survivor who has been through rehabilitation and recovery from their own injury. The Peer Supporter has made adequate progress in their own recovery, been carefully screened and has had specific training, guidance and supervision in facilitating a peer led support group from a program such as SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery). It is essential that there be a procedure in place for ongoing clinical supervision of survivors facilitating peer led support groups by a professional with expertise in recovery after burn injury and group dynamics in order to deal effectively with problems that may arise in the group.

PROFESSIONALLY FACILITATED SUPPORT GROUPS

Facilitated Support Groups are facilitated by a professional with expertise in recovery from burn injury or a professional with mental health expertise. Whatever their professional background might be, experience and training in working with group dynamics is essential. These groups serve many of the same functions as a Peer Supported Group such as education, emotional and social support, information, and practical help. In addition facilitated groups provide assistance in working through grief, loss, and trauma issues, and focus on enhancing self esteem and social functioning. The facilitator of this type of group also has the expertise to evaluate the needs of individual group members who may require further mental health assessment, referral, and intervention beyond what the group can provide. Both types of groups require clear boundaries around issues such as confidentiality and the acceptance and non-judgment of feelings in order to establish and maintain the emotional safety of the group.

Both types of groups require mutual trust, respect and concern in order to be effective. In a facilitated group, the maintenance of group safety is the responsibility of the group facilitator, while in a peer support group this responsibility is shared by all group members. Both types of groups provide the experience of receiving as well as providing support and care to another person in similar circumstances and most importantly a forum in which one can be deeply understood by others sharing similar problems and concerns. Sharing common experiences can decrease the sense of social isolation, stigma, shame, and exclusion so often associated with a burn injury. Both types of groups can provide a safe and effective forum for beginning the process of social reentry which is so essential after burn injury.

 

 

GUIDELINES FOR SUPPORT GROUPS

 

Facilitator: Remind the group that this is a support group with the purpose of sharing, listening, learning from and being supportive of each other. A support group is not a therapy group.

  1. Please turn off all cell phones and put pagers on vibrate.
  2. What is shared in this group stays in this group. Ask group members for their commitment to confidentiality. If people come in late, briefly mention boundaries to them also.
  3. All feelings are okay. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad. We do not need to rescue people from their feelings. When feelings are heard with respect and empathy, people can begin to resolve these feelings. Remembering these things about feelings will help this group to be emotionally safe. Feelings do not need to be interpreted, analyzed, or judged.
  4. Respect people’s physical boundaries. Ask permission to hug or touch. Listen while people are sharing.
  5. Only one person speaks at a time--please do not interrupt or talk over others. Respect people’s opinions. Ask permission to comment on something someone else has shared or to ask them a question. It is fine to let others know that you would rather that they did not comment on what you shared.
  6. This group is a safe space for all religious and spiritual belief systems. Please be respectful of this. It is not all right to use the group time to try to convince people about any specific religion or spiritual belief system. It is; of course, fine to share how your belief system may have been supportive and helpful to you.

Facilitator: Close the group process--thank people for attending, sharing and listening to each other. Remind the group of commitment to confidentiality.

 

SUPPORT GROUPS FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS

Guidelines and Suggestions

 

1. PLANNING

Sample Goals (for facilitators) 

  • To create a “safe” and accepting environment for participants.
  • To provide an environment in which participants can feel comfortable sharing their burn and recovery related experiences.
  • To use a mix of purposeful activities and discussion/sharing through which participants can develop coping skills and social skills 
  • To help children build bonds/relationships with group members for ongoing support and belonging 
  • To create a format and environment in which children/teens have repeated attendance/ participation in group sessions. 

Pre-Plan Your Activitiea

1 Icebreaker or collaborative group task. Basic icebreakers can start a group off on general participation. (Examples: Name games, Human Bingo, etc. Consider using an activity or task that requires teamwork and participation of all members. While icebreakers are helpful in getting the group to be more generally comfortable, actually working together at a collaborative task will further gel the participants’ relationships. Relationships and teamwork help make those bonds that cause children to truly feel more comfortable and safe for sharing and discussion, and for repeated group attendance. For additional ideas, please refer to the reference list at the end of this handout. note: Be ready with several icebreakers/ collaborative tasks in case your group appears to need multiple introductory activities.

2. Focus activities: facilitate a tangible experience or produce an object for reflection and discussion. this will provide opportunity for participants to create, reflect, and produce something they can talk about during your discussion/processing section.
Examples of activities: Family tree, personal coat of arms, worry dolls, dream catchers, choose a photo from a pile of examples and re-draw it according to your own reality, personal drawing puzzles (represent a certain topic, then break apart and discuss meaning of this), body drawings, tracings of our shoes/drawing our path, read a book together followed by discussion (“My Many Colored Days” by Dr. Seuss (feelings), or “Sometimes I’m Bombaloo” by Rachel Vail (anger/acting out), “Just Kidding” by Trudy Ludwig (teasing/bullying), or “A Terrible Thing Happened” (trauma witnesses) for siblings, or so many more activities. For additional ideas, please refer to the reference list at the end of this handout. note: Preparing several versions and adaptations of your focus activity will help you modify directions or content to meet the needs of your group during the session.

3. Take-home activities: Some participants will want to continue working through their feelings after the group experience/between group sessions. Consider providing a journal (for picture drawing or writing, depending on participants’ ages), helping the children to start a scrapbook, or a semistructured workbook—there are several emotional processing-type workbooks listed in the reference section.

Also consider some type of handouts for the parents that will give them ideas on some of your focused activities and suggestions of how to create an environment for open dialogue processing for the child or adolescent.

 

2. IMPLEMENTATION

Set the Tone

Provide a basic, age-appropriate introduction, such as: “In this group, we all have something in common: all of our lives have been impacted by burn injury. We’ll use our time together for sharing, listening, learning from and being supportive of each other.”

Iintroduce “Ground Rules” for the Group

  1. We take turns speaking here. One person talks at a time. Everyone can speak if they want to, but no one has to talk.” Consider using something tangible (such as a talking stick) to represent the speaker’s turn.)
  2. All feelings are okay. No one’s feelings are ever wrong. They are what they are, and that is okay here.
  3. The Platinum Rule: treat other group members as they would like to be treated. If you are unsure, how someone wants to be treated, ask them! (This will help you meet each child/teen “where they are” in the context of a support group).
  4. What is shared in this group stays in this group. Ask group members for their commitment to confidentiality. If people come in late, briefly mention boundaries to them also. Exception (be sure to say this): “I care a lot about helping you. If you tell me (and/or the group) something that I think is dangerous or unsafe for you, I have to help protect you by telling another adult who can help. I want to help keep you safe and help to make sure you’re okay.”
  5. Invite participants to add ground rules if appropriate; this is your judgment.

Introduce and Facilitate an Activity (Optional but Recommended for Most Age Groups vs. Pure “Discussion-only” Group Time)

  1. Icebreaker or collaborative group task. Use a task or activity that requires teamwork and participation of all members (such as completing a puzzle together, without using hands, or without using words). While icebreakers are helpful in getting the group to be more generally comfortable, actually working together at a collaborative task will gel the participants’ relationships. Relationships and teamwork helpmake those bondsthatcause children to truly feel more comfortable and safe for sharing and discussion, and for repeated group attendance.
  2. Focus activity. Facilitate your activity (project, reading a purposeful story, etc.), be attentive to participants’ attention span, grasp of material and instructions, need for assistance, changing directions, and session timing. Be sure to leave time for discussion and processing.

Discussion/Processing Time

Use open-ended questions. A few examples:

  • Who would like to tell us 2-3 sentences about their project?
  • Can you tell us more about that ____________ ? (be concrete)
  • What did you learn by making/doing today’s project/experience?
  • What (if anything) are you planning/hoping to share with your family about (today’s project or experience)?
  • What might be easy or difficult about sharing this with your family?
  • What have you learned or said here in group that you want your family/classmates/friends/etc. to know?
  • Link your participants’ experiences: Has anyone else had a similar experience?/Does anyone feel the same way?

Invite all participants to share: Make sure that all have opportunity to speak; be aware of children who might dominate the conversation. (Avoid going around the circle in a particular order; this forces participants to speak before they are ready to share). Invite the shy/quiet participant to speak: Use targeted eye contact and a gentle verbal invite (such as calling the child by name) to share for participants who have not had a turn.

Again, a tangible “turn-taking” object is helpful here (such as a talking stick).

Closing

  1. Thank participants for their participation, work, and sharing (cite specific examples if appropriate)
  2. provide information for next meeting, mentioning specifics and enticements for attendance (highlight exciting plans or incentives). Also assign “roles” for next time if appropriate “e.g., Johnny can help with the snack, Susie can help lay out the materials, Joey will help with chairs”
  3. If your participants are doing journals, scrap books, or other projects at home, remind participants of the value in this work.
  4. Leave open-ended offer for help/support (or getting further help) if needed between now and next group time. For example, if you are available to talk to participants via phone, or if issues arose which participants may need to discuss with a parent or trusted adult, encourage them to do so with concrete suggestions. (Note: This could also be a private conversation with a particular participant if appropriate).

 

3. RECOMMENDATIONS AND NOTES

Creating the Environment

  1. Minimize distractions (be aware of what is going on outside the windows, the light level, background noise, etc. Make sure all children have put away other objects and possessions).
  2. Respect children’s physical boundaries. Ask permission to hug or touch. Listen while people are sharing.
  3. With older children and teens: ask permission to comment on something someone else has shared or to ask them a question. It is fine to let others know that you would rather they didn’t comment on what you shared. Advice-giving: different way of listening; be with the person, not trying to fix it
  4. Use of a tangible object (such as a talking stick) will help to keep the focus on one speaker at a time.
  5. Small group size is beneficial. A small group, especially with children, can be an asset to ensuring comfort, participation, and management of behaviors during the group. While many would judge the success of an ongoing group solely on attendance rates, know that regular attendance and active participation from a smaller number of children is a legitimate measure of success.
  6. Close the group process—thank people for attending, sharing and listening to each other. Remind the group of commitment to confidentiality. Suggest/provide/offer children and adolescents a safe and appropriate outlet for continuing to express their feelings outside of the group setting. (Suggest talking to a supportive adult, drawing, or writing in a journal, etc.) If there is a plan for group to continue/have future meetings, be concrete with plans (say it, write it, give it (on handouts)).
  7. If the group occurs within a camp setting (or other time-limited contact), praise participants for their sharing and how well they have bonded as a group; provide tangible examples of other ways that they can work together and support one another during the rest of camp.

Suggestions for Overcoming Common Challenges of Support Groups for Youth

  1. Participants’ age groups are too diverse: Consider offering two (or even three) separate group sessions. Share the facilitation tasks with professional peers, or possibly schedule back-to-back times so that families who travel for group will only make one trip. If you must keep a large variety of ages in one group setting, consider having consistent or occasional small group break-out sessions for tasks or discussion of more sensitive topics (such as intimacy for teens). Knowing your participants’ needs and dynamics will help you judge this.
  2. Attendance is sporadic (due to distance, time, school commitments): Children/teens will ultimately be reliant upon their families for transportation to group. Offer parking or gas cards to ease the financial burden of traveling to the group location, and provide food if possible. Strongly encourage attendance but do not require it or shame participants who are unable to consistently attend. If you are able to offer attendance via Skype (free videoconferencing) or similar options, this could link in participants from greater distances. (Be sensitive about your activities if you have children participating via videoconferencing so that they do not feel left out). Also, consider regional support groups that are closer to home areas for participants; whether you are able to travel to facilitate these or utilize a more local professional resource.
  3. Sibling dynamics (two burn-injured sibs or one with burns and another without): Find out the background on your participants. You will likely begin to see issues that occur in the home setting (such as jealousy or one dominant speaker). Make sure to verbally recognize all participants as a part of the group, noting that everyone impacted by a burn is a survivor. Be sure to invite all siblings to speak in an equal manner. You may choose to have breakout sessions during group, and could offer a sibling small group for more focused discussion topics.
  4. Some children/teens do not actively choose to attend group (their parent/guardian makes that choice for them): Recognize that participation level could reflect this factor; parents/guardians requiring attendance removes the child’s control. When possible, provide choices and control to the child. Be sure to verbally recognize your gratitude for their attendance and use tangible examples of how they make a difference to the group. (Example: “I’m really glad you came tonight. You really helped the group solve the puzzle exercise with your idea. I know [other group member] like seeing you here too.”)
  5. Continued reluctance of children/teens to “open up,” participate, or share: Invite guest speakers whose stories and discussion style sets the tone. Infuse a few “peer mentor” style participants (of the same age group or only slightly older than participants) whose own sharing/participation can help members to open up 
  6. The environment seems to be a barrier for attendance; burn center vs. foundation vs. neutral community environment: consider the fact that many children and teens experience anxiety at entering the hospital/clinical setting. Even attending a potentially fun and supportive event like a group can evoke these feelings and may cause the child not to attend group. On the other hand, foundations and other community locations do not automatically provide the association of a supportive and caring place for new participants. Balance these issues; continue asking participants and caregivers for input.
  7. Participants express need for support between meeting times or at home: Discuss options with the child’s parents/guardians, offer school reentry type support (remember, school reentry programs are useful at each change of peer group or even with new teachers). Consider developing a local mentor for the child, teen, siblings, or family. This can help provide a local resource for assistance with reentry into the home community. Suggestions include a teacher, fire fighter, a SOAR(trained peer support) volunteer etc. (who you have screened to be appropriate for interactions and basic support)
  8. Keeping a group fresh/exciting/interesting, meeting after meeting is a challenge: Keep basic elements routine/predictable/safe so that participants can comfortably know what to expect. Infuse guest speakers, new activities, and a variety of media and sensory activities (movies, physical activities, creative projects, etc.) to keep content fresh. Many professional organizations have forums for information-sharing; talk with professionals in your area and across the country to share ideas!
  9. Participants gain a great deal from the group process at camp/time-limited setting, but have no follow-up. Encourage your local burn center or foundation to provide aftercare programming throughout the year (ongoing support groups, regular camps, family days, etc.). Online tools such as the Phoenix Society chat room can offer a safe/secure forum for further support and meeting up with fellow campers. Provide a tangible memento of the experience that participants can take with them. Having a token from the experience can be a reminder of the benefits of opening up, sharing your story, having confidence and support, etc. (Example: Each participant has a “Great things about Johnny” list which everyone has an opportunity to write on).

Developmental Considerations for Talking and Listening With Children

Self Efficacy: a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. If a child/teen believes s/he can be successful in a particular situation (such as dealing with a bully or facing classmates for the first time after burn injury), this belief helps determine how the child thinks, behaves, and feels. (Albert Bandura)

In support groups, children can experience a carefully managed social setting which affords them the opportunity to succeed; transferring this experience into their school, home, etc. is an invaluable tool. If they can feel safe, happy, and successful in support group, this impacts their ability to go back to their home setting successfully. Facilitators can help shape these feelings of success and build skills for children to use at home/school.

Developmental Stages and Implications for Support Group Settings

Notes: Chronological age might not match developmental stage. It is normal for children and teens to experience some (temporary) developmental regression during times of stress. Human beings go “backwards” in their reactions and ability to process their emotions and external information when stressed!

Knowing these facts can help in your use of language and in building on the strengths that accompany each stage. Note each child’s functional level, recognize their struggles and celebrate their successes based on their milestones as well as valued and unique individuals.

 

From Erikson's Stages of Development:

 

Infancy: Birth to 18 Months:Trust vs. Mistrust;

Needs maximum comfort with minimal uncertainty to trust himself/herself, others, and the environment 

Basic Strength:  Drive and Hope

Existential Question: Can I trust the world?

Application in support group setting: Children will likely be past this developmental stage when attending a formal group setting. However, keeping this in mind for siblings in the home (who were also burned or otherwise impacted by the injury) can also help you to understand your participants’ home dynamics. At this stage, children are learning to separate from parents/trusted adults and to feel safe and comfortable in the presence of others.

 

Early Childhood: 18 months to 3 Years: Autonomy vs. Shame

Works to master physical environment while maintaining self-esteem

Basic Strengths: Self-control, Courage, and Will

Existential Question: Is it okay to be “me?”

Application in support group setting: Look for participants’ focus on mastering tasks during activities; frequently children in this stage will imitate others’ performance as examples for their own. What to do: Provide positive feedback regarding their capabilities. (“You are doing a great job following the steps on this project. I like how you are doing x. . .”) Also, reinforce their capability to handle situations such as staring or dealing with fears. (“You’ve got some great words to help yourself when someone looks at you. Remember how you told me what you’d say?. .”)

 

Preschool Age: 3 to 5 Years: Initiative vs. Guilt;

Begins to initiate, not imitate, activities; develops conscience and sexual identity

Basic Strength: Purpose

Existential Question: Is it okay for me to do, more, and act?

Application in support group setting: Participants will begin to use their own ideas for performance and tasks; they will display more ideas that deviate from others’ opinions; they will be more aware of “right” and “wrong” (and learn whether adults will support their assessment of right and wrong, tattling on peers), facing guilt and blaming themselves for events (such as an accident that caused a burn injury), even when there is no causal link. Siblings can also experience guilt at this level and beyond (“I was mad at my brother and used angry words, then he got hurt. It’s my fault.”). Additionally, children begin to differentiate stereotypically male and female behaviors (girls play with dolls, boys play with trucks, etc.).

What to do: Be concrete in your directions and expectations, allowing participants to clarify understanding. Praise participants for their capabilities (be concrete). Be concrete in clarifying situations which seem to cause guilt or feelings of inability, and validate the children’s logic and thoughts. (example: “Accidents happen; The fire/your brother’s injury was not your fault, you were not even present when it happened”, etc.)

 

School Age: 6 to 12 Years: Industry vs. Inferiority;

Tries to develop a sense of self-worth by refining skills

Basic Strength: Method and Competence

Existential Question: Can I make it in the world of people and things?

Application in support group setting: Participants assign self-worth to ability successfully manage situations and complete tasks. Frustration with struggles and blaming oneself for perceived failure can be an issue. Also, having to rely on a parent to complete basic tasks after burn injury (such as assistance in eating or getting dressed) can cause great frustration linked to this developmental need.

What to do: Provide opportunities for success and competence. Be aware of the level of difficulty of activities and have modifications/adjustments ready (physical alterations or otherwise). Utilize activities which allow participants to have a defined role in activities to reinforce their strengths and abilities.

 

Adolescence: 12 to 18 Years: Identity vs. Role Confusion;

Tries integrating many roles (child, sibling, student, athlete, worker) into a self-image under role model and peer pressure

Basic Strengths: Devotion and Fidelity

Existential Question: Who am I? What can I be?

Application in support group setting: Participants will associate their identity, self-esteem, and value with activities and roles. Frustration can arise when these identities don’t match/when expectations for different roles don’t match.

What to do: Be aware that burn injury can remove some roles, such as athlete, or a level of confidence in one’s own value. Use group time to reinforce the roles participants play (example: “John is great at analyzing the overall situation. He always helps the group work out puzzles. Or John, you’re really great at providing understanding to other group members. You are a valuable member of our group and we appreciate that about you.”). Provide opportunities to discuss “who I am” and “where I’m going” for participants in this group.

 

SUGGESTED RESOURCES

 

Web Sites, Printable Handouts, and More Extensive Resource Lists:

The Phoenix Society: http://www.phoenix-society.org is the only national organization helping burn survivors everywhere get back to living. You can visit the website for a wealth of information.

Centering Corporation and Grief Digest Magazine: http://www.centering.org: grief support resources and workshops

Self Esteem Shop (resource collection for purchase): http://www.selfesteemshop.com : independent bookstore that caters to mental health professionals and those they serve

Compassion Books: compassionbooks.com books, DVDs, and audios to help children and adults through serious illness, death and dying, grief, bereavement, and losses of all kinds

 

Books:

“101 Fun, Creative, and Interactive Games for Kids” by Steven Peck
“Brave Bart: A Story for Traumatized and Grieving Children” by Carolina Sheppard
"Changing Faces: the Challenge of Facial Disfigurement” by James Partridge
“How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” by A. Faber and E. Mazlish
“I Know I Made It Happen: A Gentle Book About Feeling Guilty” By L.B. Blackburn/Centering Corp
“Just Kidding” by Trudy Ludwig
“My Many Colored Days” by Dr. Seuss
“Quick Crowdbreakers and Games for Youth Groups” by Group Publishing.
"The Revised & Expanded Book of Raccoon Circles” by James Hallie Cain and Thomas E. Smith
“Severe Burns: A Family Guide to Medical and Emotional Recovery” by Andrew Munster
“Sometimes I’m Bombaloo” by Rachel Vail
“Sticks and Stones: 7 Wasy Your Child Can Deal with Teasing, Bullying and Putdowns” by Margaret M. Holmes
“The Struggle to Be Strong: True Stories by Teens About Overcoming Tough Times” by Al DeSerta and Sybil Wolin
“Support Groups for Children” by Kathleen O’Rourke and John Worzbyt
“A Terrible Thing Happened” by Margaret M. Holmes, Sasha J. Mudlaff, and Cary Pillo
“Words Will Never Hurt Me; helping Kids Handle Teasing, Bullying and Putdowns” by Sally Northway Ogden

 

Brief Author Bio: Jessica irven, m.S. is a Licensed and Certified Recreational Therapist and Certified Child Life Specialist. She has worked with children, teens, young adults, and families in various settings for over fifteen years, and has worked in health care (both medical and mental health) for over 10 years. Her experience in the hospital inpatient, outpatient, and community settings includes burn center work and pediatric aftercare as well as workshops for young adults, families, burn camps, and retreats, both in the U.S. and abroad. She is a firm believer in seeing “what can be” in people and in using a mix of purposeful activity, supportive interactions, and individual reflection and growth as part of the coping and healing process.

 

This article is from The Phoenix Society® .  All Rights Reserved.
 
The Phoenix Society, Inc.® • 1835 R W Berends Dr. SW • Grand Rapids, MI 49519-4955 • 800.888.BURN • http://www.phoenix-society.org