Responsibilities of Group Members

Introductory sessions should be devoted to making sure participants understand their responsibilities in the group. In keeping with the col-lectivist orientation of African Americans and the nature of a support group intervention, it is important that group members understand that they are responsible for individually and collectively meeting the group's goals. Members are responsible for each other's accomplishments as well as each other's failures. With this orientation, the joy of one member obtaining employment is shared by all members. The disappointment of one member not getting a desired job is experienced within the supportive environment of the group.

The following are suggested responsibilities to convey to group participants. In our groups, members were responsible for:

1. attending all meetings on time;

2. participating in discussions and group activities;

3. sharing resources and information with other group members;

4. being flexible and willing to change; and

5. respecting other group members at all times.

In addition to adhering to the responsibilities of group members, group leaders (facilitators) have additional responsibilities. These may include:

1. structuring the activities of the group so that the group can meet its objectives;

2. encouraging interaction among group members and seeing that all members are actively involved in discussions and exercises;

3. assisting in obtaining any needed resources for the group;

4. clarifying and interpreting information for group members.

We have found that it is important for the facilitators to understand that it is not their responsibility to lecture at or tell participants what to do, but to serve as an advisor. Because the focus of the intervention is on participants learning how to access and use supportive networks to address their own problems, the leader can model these skills within the group. Within this context, the group is a laboratory in which members can practice activities and learn new skills and techniques. It is helpful to have training sessions for group leaders or facilitators so that they understand how they are to function within the group. In cases where the group facilitators are professionals, whose normal activities may be to direct and negotiate on behalf of clients, they must understand their role in the social support group is different. In one support group led by a rehabilitation specialist, group members rejected a directive leader who insisted on calling the shots and telling everyone what to do.

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