Types of Support and Link These Types with Network Members

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By the third session, members may understand that the group members, in effect, provide support to each other. During this session, members will learn to identify different types of support and who the most appropriate provider is for a particular type of support. A first exercise may have members discuss a situation in which they needed or sought support from someone in their network over the previous week. Each situation can be discussed in terms of whom they called upon (i.e., brother, spouse, friend, social services), what specific help was needed (type of support), and what the outcome was (support provided, not provided). Ask members to say how they felt when they asked for and received the help. In this session, it may be helpful to acknowledge that sometimes asking for help evokes shame or anger or other negative emotions from the recipient. These feelings must be dealt with. The facilitator may discuss ways of handling these negative emotions. For example, when there is reciprocation, negative feelings are more likely to be replaced with self-fulling ones. One outcome from this exercise was that group members began to connect with one another as they shared common reactions to asking for and receiving help.

The goal of the second exercise was for members to understand the different types of support and how a particular type of support can be linked to a specific need. The categories of emotional, informational, and material types of support provided good distinctions (see chapter 5). Emotional support can be defined as being listened to, receiving encouragement and praise, and feeling loved and cared for. Informational support can be defined as receiving information or learning something, acquiring knowledge and advice. Material support can be defined as receiving something tangible, such as money, transportation, or help with child-care. Participants can demonstrate their understanding of different types of support by giving examples of different types of support. The facilitators may provide examples: sharing a job lead (informational support), writing a letter (material support), and getting encouragement (emotional support). When participants have a clear understanding of the types of support, the next exercise can be done to gain a further understanding of how to access the appropriate type of support. Persons may work with their buddies for this exercise.

Situations in which support is needed can be generated by each pair. These members can then discuss the appropriate type of support and who might be the most appropriate provider of this type of support. Members can complete a chart with three columns: (a) the situation where support is needed, (b) the type of support, and (c) the most appropriate source and provider of support.

A group discussion following this exercise should emphasize the importance of matching the different types of support with the source. For example, an employment counselor may not be the most appropriate person to ask for help with baby-sitting. A friend or neighbor might be more appropriate. If you are feeling depressed and lonely and need someone to talk to, your mother may be the most appropriate source for this type of support. However, if your mother has not been able to help you in the past, consider someone else in your network.

Another exercise we used allowed members to apply what has been learned to employment efforts. In a group discussion, members are asked to share their techniques and resources for finding employment. A list can be developed. This provides members with an opportunity to be supportive to each other by sharing any resources or job leads they might have.

Members can review their social support networks and determine what support is available to assist them in securing employment. For example, one member of the group might have a relative who works in an industry desired by another group member. Another might realize he or she can give his or her neighbors his or her resume, and so on.

Group members and facilitators can also provide information on what resources are available to the general public, (i.e., employment bulletins, community bulletin board, telephone job lines, job training centers, etc.).

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