Running the first session
A typical peer support session might be structured as follows:
- Arrival of peers
- Completion of sign in sheet (if required by venue)
- Coffee/tea to allow socialising and catch up
- Review of goals if following your goal setting session
- Topic of discussion
- Outline of next session
- Socialising and question time at end
However, sessions will of course vary according to what is to be covered. Nonetheless, you would probably always want to set aside time for allowing people to sign in and say hello to each other, and scheduling the next meeting!
Note: we cover the actual content of sessions on the Content page here – the material below relates to the practical and social aspects of running groups.
After everyone has arrived and had a chance to help themselves to refreshments and to begin to get to know the group, we suggest you ask them all to sit and begin the session. Introduce yourself as the Peer Support Facilitator who will be facilitating these sessions, relaying some of your personal background if you wish. Briefly tell the group where the facilities (e.g. toilets, fire escapes) are in the building and maybe roughly how long the meeting is going to last.
After this, we suggest that you give each group member a chance to introduce themselves. Offer them the opportunity to talk about their story, but reassure group members that this is not mandatory, as some might be too shy, or wish to keep their medical history private. Ask anyone if they have any disabilities e.g. hearing problems that might make it difficult for them to participate in the group and try to make suitable adjustments.
Although the first session will most likely be taken up with getting to know one another, it would be a good idea to brainstorm with the group some topics they would like to talk about in the upcoming meetings, and perhaps to agree on one or more of these for the next session. Try to end the group on a positive note.
Ensure that the venue and time for the next meeting is acceptable to all before the meeting is closed.
After the First Meeting
After the meeting it may help to take some time to reflect about how it went by writing down your thoughts. This will help you to think about what went well or less well and give you ideas about the next meeting. This meeting should be easier because you will probably feel more confident going into it, and the peers will also have started to get to know each other and will have an idea of what to expect.
For the second meeting, you may wish to start by revisiting the first meeting by asking the peers about how it went. You may also wish to make time for each group member to talk about anything diabetes-related that happened to them since the last meeting.
Once discussion starts, it might be useful to allow discussion to flow naturally, even if it moves away from the designated topic. If you think that the contribution of the peers is altering, but the group seems comfortable with this, then let it continue.
Each person will have experiences of living with their condition that will provide emotional or practical support for others in the group. If it seems that the group are looking less interested, then try and steer back to the original theme if you can.
You may wish to follow a similar pattern to the previous session, by finishing with a consideration of what the group would like to do in the next session.
This could also be a time in which you consider the possibility of social activities too e.g. you could suggest that a different group member each week hosts the refreshments, provides some music to accompany this. Later on, you might consider a group social event – a meal, a walk in the countryside or a trip to the cinema. See ‘Social activities’ page here for ideas.
At the end of the meeting you may want to round things up, or ask another member of the group to do so, or the entire group to share what was good and maybe not so good. Concluding with what good has come about from the group sharing is a sound way to close.
As the meetings go on, you may want to keep a record of the things you have been talking about. Please see here for an example contact record sheet you can use for that purpose.