Resources used: Peer counseling Presentation; Group facilitation skills; Broken squares
Online resources for further reading on facilitation skills (link 1, link 2)
Sunday (the last day):
Jugal, Dhruv and myself- we tried our hands at shooting some funny videos, using soft toys - and then, some serious discussion on stammering: its nature, way forward and is it a diversity? if so, what could be the implications.. etc.
Mumbai Self help group meeting (104th!!) at 1.30 pm; Ghatkopar YMCA. We were a little late but the group had gathered and discussion had begun. The participants who had attended the previous two days' workshop, facilitated brief sessions, utilizing the ideas/ tools they had learned. It was very nice to see participants conducting an activity, debriefing, asking participants about the possible lessons to be learned from the activity- and having lot of fun. Linking activity to Learning was a very well demonstrated skill by all the presenters.
There were some participants who made it a point to attend the SHG this Sunday. Sriniwas again got us thoroughly confused about our identity, during an energizer. During QnA session, we discussed about the origins of our shame. Most participants shared an incident from their childhood, causing shame. It was understood that shining the flash light of consciousness (recalling and relating in a group) - can start a change, a process of recovery from the pain and limitations imposed by such incidents.
Acknowledge - Accept - Forgive (self, the other) - educate - Move on
Some more role plays, discussions and then, we were finally ready to disperse after a round of thanks; especially Gaurav and all the Mumbai members..
Post workshop reflections:
We were a little unsure how will the agenda go down with average pws, who may, understandably, be concerned about her/his own recovery. We tried and seem to have made a headway in offering the BIG picture: Our recovery and well being is inter-connected with others. More we sustain and practice our social skills in SHG, the better we become and the better others are served. And what we have called social skills, has a core component: counseling one another- not just in SHG but also in other situations- a younger sibling, a colleague at work or a friend passing through a difficult time..
We also discussed that may be the next NC can have a parallel short session with SHG facilitators, along these very lines. To help TISA reach these goals, we may request SPEAK to do more fund raising. Jugal will be helping us with video documentation. (please feel free to leave your comments below)
28th Nov: Day 2
The day began with some recap by Dhruv and Noura along the lines of post workshop expectations and limitations of peer counseling: if workshop is successful, there should be more Self help initiatives (physical or virtual) in this part of the country and peer counseling may simply mean listening quietly at times- not giving advises freely etc.
First brain storming session was about : Have participants been in a workshop recently? and if so, what did they like most about it? What, the least? and which of these outcomes could be attributed to pure "chance"? In the subsequent discussion, we realized that nothing good or bad in a workshop ever happens by chance. Good outcomes are almost always the outcome of painstaking planning and preparation. And bad- due to the lack of it. And here comes the role of a good facilitator: visualizing the event well in advance, plan accordingly, discuss, arrange logistics, recruit help and participation, think of the "unforeseen" interruptions..
Broken Squares: In this silent group activity, participants learned: we may want to excel as individuals but winning as a team is a lot more important - and this needs being aware of other's needs. We also discussed how this same activity can be adapted for a SHG, focused on stammering issues.
Facilitation tools: we discussed and asked participants to demonstrate tools like Energizers, Ice breakers etc. Group formations and group activities, simulations (role plays), dynamic lead in, dynamic reviews, Brain storming, wise use of HUMOR etc. Participants were asked to recall which of these tools were used by the facilitators in the last two days- when, how and how did it help the overall learning process etc.
Facilitation skills and Personal qualities of a facilitator were taken up next as a small group discussion with collation of ideas on the white board. One of the qualities often cited was: S/he should be knowledgeable. So, we discussed: who had read what in the last few weeks or months? Some participants were able to recall significant details of the books they had read recently (Shivaji drew Stuttering hexagon! and explained it very well). Others shared the titles they would like to read. Noura suggested some books. It was understood that a good facilitator will read widely, grasp well, recall and relate it to training/ counseling needs in the present context.
Generating content for the SHG: learning from other participants (example- Sriniwas Basutkar shared : Identity Crisis Energizer! which truly created a big crisis..); learning from other SHGs (posts on TISA blog); Google; general reading etc.
Motivating oneself: It was understood that facilitating SHG, being available to other pws - all this can be tiring and lead to burnout. Therefore we need to pay attention to "self-care" and have a plan to keep our motivation high. Participants developed a personal one year road map; Two volunteers shared their road maps (Dnyanesh and Sriniwas). Sachin discussed how these road maps can be made even more realistic and relevant (SMART). Participants were given more time to work on their road maps. Noura offered an idea: work with a buddy to remind you of your goals. Dhruv offered another theme: please give a place to SHGs in your strategy to motivate yourself. Mumbai being a mega city, there is enough space for hundreds of SHGs..
For self care, many of us felt that some centering activity - meditation etc. - on a daily basis could help.
We concluded with a feedback session and with a thought from Nisargdatt Maharaj who lived in Mumbai in the recent past: If you know who you are, then you are wrong... We all had our own understanding of this profound statement, which was fine. In a nutshell: we need not take seriously everything that mind tells us- especially the negative limiting thoughts; Because we are a lot more than we can ever conceive or think..
Dhruv and Kamal suddenly produced beautifully printed certificates for all the participants- and also as memento for the facilitators. THIS was the only thing which appears to have happened by pure chance! (or may be not.. thanks to Kamal's support staff in the office.)
We had one last tasty meal together at Gul Mohar, the nice restaurant on IIT campus, within the walking distance of the Nano-electronics lab, where we held the day 2 of the workshop... and finally said goodbyes with all round thanks!
Special thanks to Kamal for organizing the venue (and above all - participating for two days!); Dhruv- for conceptualizing, planning and putting it all together; Noura for joining us- both as an Anthropologist, Friend - and SLP too. TISA thanks you ALL for making it happen.
27th Nov: Day 1
Participants gathered from Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Goa, and Ahmedabad to attend day 1 of the facilitator's workshop guided by Dr. Sachin in IIT Bombay. The group was welcomed by Dhruv, who discussed the importance of peer counseling for SHG facilitation. What does peer counseling mean? Some ideas explored were:
- Asking meaningful questions to encourage a person to share more
- Building deep respect
- Firstly, for yourself and your own stammering
- Then for the other person and their stammering. Otherwise, how can we counsel someone we do not respect?
- Being a compassionate guide (anyone can be this)
- Helping a person arrive at their own goals, not goals we decide for them
In order to secure the participation of all attendees and to make a mutual commitment to learning, a "business contract" was drawn up. Noura asked the group about their hopes and expectations from the workshop. Many of the participants wished to gain counseling skills to become better facilitators, but some also had pressing concerns about how to create rich activities, what the focus of an SHG should be, and how to cater to different groups of people who stammer. The question of retention also arose: Why is it that some people will attend an SHG once, or for six months only, and then never attend again? Is the purpose of an SHG to retain members for all of eternity? What can the facilitator do better in order meet the needs of these members? In order to explore these questions, the facilitators and participants signed the "contract" to dedicate themselves for two days to learning about peer counseling and group facilitation.
Next, Dhruv led a rapid introduction exercise (CHANGE), and participants had the chance to introduce themselves to others. Each person present then used voluntary stammering to say their name to the group, while also sharing a special interest of the person sitting beside them.
The first peer counseling topic explored was active listening. Dr. Sachin shared a beautiful analogy for this concept: active listening is like listening for one melody among a multitude of songs. Or it is similar to hearing your name spoken in a side conversation, and perking up to hear what people are saying about you. We discussed how active listening can make a person feel heard and understood, help a person understand themselves better, and arrive at solutions on their own rather than being handed down advice. "Counseling is a talking treatment that heals." A list of "what counselors do" was then created collectively, and it included building trust, finding the root cause of issues, and motivating the counselee. Next, the group brainstormed a list of helpful and unhelpful practices conducted by counselors, inspired by actual encounters that participants had in the past. The danger of tunnel vision was also discussed, or focusing solely on stammering and not on all other areas of one's life.
Empathy, patience, trustworthiness, and focused attention were discussed as ingredients of strong counseling. How can one impart these notions to their counselee? Body language. Showing your compassion and empathy in your face, posturing, voice, and frequently checking in with the counselee to ensure that you are understanding their meaning correctly. Next, the participants were divided into pairs of counselors and counselees. Dr. Sachin, in a very mischievous manner, pulled the counselors aside and gave them instruction to demonstrate poor listening skills through inattentive body language. The counselors, returning to their pairs, did exactly this by interrupting, looking away frequently, giving advice, and disagreeing with everything the counselee said. The counselees immediately noticed and shared their discomfort with this approach. This was then followed with a more positive counseling experience.
Additional tools for listening were discussed, such as using open-ended questions and using a nonjudgmental manner of speaking. We also explored statements which are disguised as questions, such as, "Don't you think you should...?" Participants shared statements people have made about their stammering which were helpful and unhelpful. Some helpful statements included "make eye contact" and "do what you are afraid of," while unhelpful statements included "slow down" and "this is your bad karma from a previous life." What was truly interesting was that when the group looked at a list of counseling statements together, there was often disagreement about whether a statement was helpful or unhelpful. For example, "Don't cry; you must be strong," was thought to be helpful to some and unhelpful to others. This only stressed to us the importance of context, rapport, and individual preferences when counseling.
The day ended with a true counseling exercise. A case example was presented of Pradeep, a stammerer who was given no support as a child and became depressed as an adult after failing four job interviews, deciding instead to leave his hometown in search of a cure. Participants role-played as either counselor or Pradeep, with one observer taking note of their interaction. Resisting the urge to give advice was understandably a challenge at times, but counselors did a wonderful job of implementing counseling techniques, such as validation, empathizing, assuaging, and inspiring hope.
The final thought of the day was "Leave no footprints in the mind" of the counselee. Allow them to find their own way.
26th Nov: At last, I am in Mumbai. Everything went like a clockwork. Met Dhruv, Noura at airport. We discussed our individual roles for the workshop next day- some last minute enrichment and coordination - as we drove to "Mirchi and Mime" in Powai, for an extended dinner and gup-shup with Dhruv's parents.
"Mirchi and Mime" is a great concept. All the staff is deaf and mute. Menu card explains the signs to be used. Soon after you are seated, a manager comes and explains the concept and the working. Thereafter, it was a breeze. The staff was serving with great self-confidence and elan.. A little change in the underlying idea of khana-peena out, can transform someone's life. The same staff, which would be considered liability in a so called "normal" establishment, is the USP of this new venture. This is not the whole story: The food was less spicy, less oily, tasty. Ambiance was nice. Service was prompt and courteous. If you are ever around, check them out (link). This was a great demonstration of enterprise with a human purpose..
Keep checking here for updates. We are looking forward to a workshop which goes beyond stammering and cure... Thanks for reading!