Monday, December 14, 2020

Developmental Group work with humans in special need.


Developmental Group Work.

A group gathered around a pile of sandwiches.
All young adults. 
All special. 
All beautiful humans.

I am in a supportive housing project in the UK Midlands.
Developmental Group Work is on the agenda.

I want to walk you through my experience from from this session.
I want to share the objectives, process and methodology.
NOT to be directive or offering best practice.
I have no answers, only offering where I am at, at the moment.
I am just journaling and reflecting on my fumbling, stumbling
attempts to facilitate experiences in personal development.

The context first of all.
I moved the lounge type chairs into a circle.
Central is a coffee table laden with sandwiches and soft drinks.
It was lunchtime and young people are always up for free food.
Music is playing pretty loud.
A selected mix of beats, never well know 'sing along' tracks.
Music is always a contributor to the climate setting.
It always needs to be appropriate for those attending,not myself -
but I love hip hop and contemporary beats which helps in connecting.

The Humans.
The group had been selected and invited by a staff worker.
All deemed to have special needs at the moment.
All between 18 and 23.
I move around talking to everyone as they arrive.
We swop names and chatty questions.
There are two attending alone. 
Others are in two's and noisier as is normal.
We are eight in number, including a staff member and myself.
Size is just right. Between 5 and 8 is ideal.
A few others who were invited didn't show up.
If the group is larger, the sharing becomes laborious + social loafing.

Kick off.
I start to chat and introduce myself.
No laptop or projected images in this context.
I share a couple of minutes of my life and mission
including some of my vulnerabilities at the start.

A Blob image is waved in front of them
and I skip though what I plan to do = get them talking!
I hand out an A5 copy of Blob Homes speaking directly
to each person as I move around the circle giving each a copy.

BLOB HOMES*. A question to introduce this development tool.
'Which one of these homes is symbolic of your own childhood home?'
I focus on the Igloo and say we probably haven't lived in one
but it could be a symbol of a cold atmosphere in your home.

I share about myself to model openness and authenticity.
My memories are spilled as I point to an image
and tell of a four sons in a small terraced house in Lancashire.
Crowded with Mother and Father but warm memories,
even with the boys regularly fighting amongst ourselves.
I will let you guess which 'Home' I pointed to.

I processed around the circle, gently easing each person
into expressing themselves.
Asking questions of clarification, acknowledging every expression.
EVERYONE present had come from a broken home.
EVERYONE talked about personal security turning into turmoil.
EVERYONE talking about childhood fears and/or violence.

One person was the alone person on the castle wall.
Another the person with the back-pack, always moving and insecure.
Another the question marked.
Another whose home had burned down - arson.

One disclosure encouraged another.
There was openness and silent listening.
Each of us with unique memories.

Blob Classroom.*
'Which Blob describes you when you were in school?'
I start again and point out the joker and the disruptive.
Saying that I now believed that I messed about because
I always felt 'thick' and a failure. 
My behaviour was just a cover to hide my vulnerability.

I moved around the circle in a new direction.
I asked the above question to each person.
As you may imagine, time in school was mainly difficult
A number spoke about being good at one subject
but then how other teachers gave them a rough time.

By now the group was more relaxed.
They were becoming more at ease at self revelation.
I thanked them repeatedly for having the guts to be honest.

I explained how we wrap our issues and problems up into  parcels.
Each one selotaped and pushed down into our gut.
Another wound, another parcel.
Another broken relationship, another parcel deposited.
Not buried dead.
But buried alive.
I shared how we then spend valuable emotional energy
keeping them all hidden, and how I believe in Counselling
which can facilitate us taking out each one and dealing with it.
How I believe that by doing what we were doing
is good for our well being and development.

Blob Cliff.*
I passed around the last Blob tool and asked a question.
'Which of the Blobs best describes you when, sometime in your life,
you were near the cliff edge or went over the edge?'

This time I asked for a volunteer to go first.
A flow of volunteers followed,
each talking freely  about an extremely tough time.
The Blob tool was just an aid to articulation, reflection, not cracking up
but cracking open.

A children's home experience.
A failure of all adults to be consistent.
The pain of desertion, rejection.

Everyone spoke.
Everyone listened.
There was a powerful climate of mutual support.
'I am not alone ...................'

QUOTATION:: "We become fully conscious only 
of what are able to express to someone else.
We may already have had a certain inner intuition about it, 
but it must remain vague so long as it is unformulated"
Paul Tournier
from  "The Meaning of Persons

I had injected little comments in-between each person.
Encouraging, acknowledging, affirming.
Sharing myself.

It was clear that we were approaching a natural end.
Again I thanked them - and said I had just one more thing to ask.
'I want to ask you one more question - if you will,
will you ask me a question?'

The response was wondrous.
Powerful, sensitive, probing questions.
One was about what makes me accept everyone without judgement.
This one was from a young man who earlier had said how
he had lost all faith in humans
and was therefore modelling his life on a celebrity.
Using the language of this rap artiste.
His drugs and drinking.
His clothing too .......

Conclusion and transposition.
I have shared a little of this session.
It is impossible to describe an experience - as you know.
But now I ask you to consider reflecting on these few words.
What stands out amongst the rest?
What can you transpose from the above into your work/life?
Note it. Summarise it. 
Maybe try out these Blob tools with humans around you?
And remember, there are over 100’s different such Blob tools - 
maybe there is one you can use in your work or -
maybe you can suggest an idea to me yourself?

 *SEE blob for all Blob Downloads