Support group facilitator

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Support group facilitator

Post by Prajnaparamita on Mon Sep 19, 2016 1:23 pm

Hey guys

So last month I attended for the first time a support group for women on the autism spectrum run by a national autism support/community group. (No it isn't Autism Speaks if you're wondering, thank god) And it was really fantastic and I'd loved it! I'd gone to events sponsored by this organization before and left feeling like I didn't really belong, that I'm too pretty or high functioning or sociable to really count as being on the spectrum but at the women's group I found that people were really receptive to hearing from someone who's spent her life trying to pass, alongside those who have never been able to pass and had to deal with it their own way. I dunno, it just felt like a much better fit for me. Even though there seemed to be a large number of regulars who all knew each other, and they were all several decades older than me at least they were really welcoming, and I felt like I was able to help and connect with people. (I was able to offer some good advice about stating needs in relationships and setting boundaries, all stuff that I really learned from you guys!)

Anyway I loved it so much that as soon as I got home I registered for the next meeting immediately, even though it was a month away. Anyway, that meeting is ten days from now. This morning, I got an email from the organizer of the group (a non-autistic woman who works for the national organization) that the facilitator for the group (an autistic woman who volunteers for the group, as all the groups are facilitated by fellow peers on the spectrum) is going to be away for the next three months and asking if I would be willing to facilitate the group in her place. I immediately told her I would love to, I've long been thinking about getting more involved with this organization as I think they're great, I was planning on attending all those meetings anyway, and I'd be paid for it too, yippie!!! Anyway, we emailed back and forth this morning and on Wednesday I'll be meeting with her and the group facilitator to discuss my roles and duty.

Which is all super great! Except... I'm also feeling kinda weird about this too. Like I attended only a single group, and now I'm being asked to take over (in a temporary function, but still). There's clearly a group of women who have been attending for some time, and you're bypassing all of them and asking the person who came for the very first time just last month? Also, I'm a couple decades younger (at 22) than everyone else in the group, the next younger being somewhere in her fourties. I'm wondering if it isn't going to be weird to have the youngest person in the room, by a lot, who is also a near stranger, being the one in charge. Don't get me wrong, I'm honored by this, but I'm just wondering if it's going to cause a weird dynamic and if they've thought of that yet. Also I'm really wondering why I was the one asked. I've been told that I give off a very therapist-like demeanor, and yeah I'm the type who people will come to for advice and I guess I look like I have it together but still it feels strange. I'm wondering if I should ask them why I was picked--I mean it's possible that they were going to contact everyone, but as I RSVP'd first and then responded first it just happened to be me by chance.

Does anyone have any experience facilitating something like this? Or advice about how I should approach this meeting on Wednesday or the age dynamic?

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Re: Support group facilitator

Post by Wondering on Tue Sep 20, 2016 12:11 pm

I've never done anything like this, but if it were me, I would definitely ask why I was picked. Even disregarding your reservations about it, it seems like it might be good information to know so that you can facilitate in the way they prefer?

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Re: Support group facilitator

Post by Guest on Tue Sep 20, 2016 12:29 pm

Prajnaparamita wrote:...but I'm just wondering if it's going to cause a weird dynamic and if they've thought of that yet.
I see no harm in bringing this up on Wednesday. If anything, you'll probably end up feeling more at ease by bringing this to the forefront. Which brings me to my next point:

Prajnaparamita wrote:...but as I RSVP'd first and then responded first it just happened to be me by chance.
It's also entirely possible that they aren't put off by your age/inexperience, and instead would much rather prefer someone with your initiative and enthusiasm. This opportunity is a result of you having capitalized on those positive traits, so perhaps you've nothing to gain from worrying in excess.

Just think of this as an apprenticeship sort of thing and learn as much as you can.

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Re: Support group facilitator

Post by Prajnaparamita on Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:11 pm

I guess, as a follow up to this, and I'm not sure if this makes sense to you guys (it might not if you don't know me IRL) but I'm worried that I might have been singled out for this and given the opportunity because of the "passing" privilege that I have.

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Re: Support group facilitator

Post by Enail on Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:33 pm

I'm not sure there's any way for you to know if that's the case without more information. Another reason I could see would be that, as a newcomer, they might see you as a neutral party.
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Re: Support group facilitator

Post by Prajnaparamita on Wed Sep 21, 2016 11:04 pm

So, uhhh... I met with the facilitator and organizer today. (Mostly with the facilitator as she seems to be the one with the actual power and command and is in charge of the group, the organizer is a lovely but dotty and not all mentally there old woman who the facilitator seems to keep on a short leash). Long story short, the facilitator is going off for a three month meditation retreat in the mountains and thinks that I'm the only one she thinks would be capable of leading the group while she's gone. And yeah, I asked her point-blank why I was picked, and I was told it was because of my maturity, empathy, and insight, (which she doesn't see in anyone else in the group) and my training in Non-Verbal Communication. A training which I barely have and possibly overstated when I initially mentioned it and now she thinks I'm like deeply versed in and I haven't done anything to correct her on that so ummm yeah.

It's flattering, I'm not going to lie. And I guess I'm feeling kinda okay about this, after all she made it clear that I can run the group however I like, there's no expectations on me, so it's not like I can do this wrong or mess it up somehow. But on the other hand when I get told how qualified I am for this because of my maturity and empathy and insight and oh did we mention your maturity you really are wise beyond your years I just wanted to be like "YA'LL DO REALIZE I'M ONLY TWENTY TWO, RIGHT?!" I'm still not that long out of adolescence, I'm a raging ball of emotions and pissy judgments and acting on every impulse and getting caught up in things and oh god they're calling me mature again holy shit.

Sorry guys this is really ramble/rant-y. But anyway, yeah, she did think of the age issue when I asked, but said that I should mention my qualifications in regards to training in NVC (which I don't have!) and people will understand that I'm qualified to take over this role, regardless of my age.

So ummm yeah. Here's to being told that in a room of people in their 40s-60s, you're the most mature person by far apparently and not hyperventilating too much over what the fuck I've gotten myself into and not screaming "DID ANY OF YOU MISS THE FACT THAT I'M ONLY 22?!"


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Re: Support group facilitator

Post by Wondering on Thu Sep 22, 2016 6:03 pm

You have some training in NVC, though, which puts you a step above others in the group. Is it possible to get more training in it before the first meeting you'll be facilitating? I don't know how involved that is. But if it's doable, maybe that would make you feel a little less of Impostor Syndrome?

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