Tips for stress free support groups

My how time flies when things are crazy busy! At BSCI, are busier than ever doing all we can to support you, the bariatric professional, as you work to provide quality support and educational programs for your patients. We know that those who work in the bariatric community are some of the most talented, dedicated, genuine people anywhere. And we are keenly aware of the many hats you wear. You work tirelessly to improve the health and well being of the patients you serve. But, what about you? What about YOUR health and well-being?

For many, support group night comes at the end of an exhausting full day of work. The time and energy it takes to pull together a meeting agenda, lesson topics and activities when your best self has been all but spent, can turn what might be a fun and fulfilling end to you day to a dreaded obligation. We hear you! We have put together some helpful tips for Bariatric Support Group Leaders to help reduce your stress while planning, preparing and facilitating great meetings.

1. Calendar topics in advance. Time spent planning several months or even a year ahead for support group topics, guest speakers and activities will pay off great dividends especially on those crazy busy days. Survey patients for hot topics, reach out to other professionals, vendors and educators and schedule them in. Having a plan will reduce your stress and let your patients know in advance what great meetings they can count on.

2. Involve more patients, more often. Our research has shown clearly that patients want more patient involvement in support groups. You likely have a room filled with willing volunteers to contribute in a big way. Patient volunteers can arrange for room set up, welcome at the door, arrange for spotlight patient presentations, serve on special event committees, and even research and present a lesson topic. While it takes a bit to get organized, set guidelines and communication, involving patients will help them engage, while giving you a helping hand.

3. Invest in Lesson Plans. Since 2000, BSCI has been known for our research based, quality support group lessons. Each has a lesson plan, handout, activity and visual aids. Have a topic in mind that you don’t see? Let us know, we’ll put our heads together and see what we can come up with. Remember, those attending support group come for a variety of reasons. A good facilitator will incorporate a variety of teaching methods to give each participant opportunity to learn, grow and share in their own way. And in doing so, make the meeting exceptional!

4. Use readily available newsletter articles, stories and research. It is likely that you receive a variety of eNewsletters, updates, articles and research notifications every week from various sources within the bariatric community. For an easy and fun support group on the fly, print out several articles, ask patients to read aloud, then discuss by asking questions like: “Is this true for you?” or, “please share your thoughts and experience on this topic.” If the group is large, you could divide up, have each smaller group take a topic, discuss, then share with everyone.

5. End on time then go home! Many patients enjoy the social aspect of support groups and often meetings seem to go on forever and end way too late, especially for busy professionals. First, set your boundaries. Establish a reasonable time to end, and stick to it. (We find that most groups are about 1/1/2 hours). Dismiss everyone and suggest that those who want to continue visiting meet ‘in the lobby, or turn out the lights when they leave. You may want to ask a patient volunteer to arrange for the after support group get together. Finish your meeting on time – then, go home!  Go see your family and take care of you! We need you.

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