Mindful Facilitation

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Have you ever walked into a group session and found yourself in reactive mode to one or more of the participants? Have you ever walked away from a session, knowing you have been triggered and felt uncomfortable with your performance? We have all been there at some point in our group facilitation. I certainly have.

I was running a supervision session last week, and the issue emerged around how we can be less reactive in the situations described above. As we began to reflect, we identified that contemporary program design invites us to use mindfulness to lower reactivity for participants. As we talked further, it became apparent that the facilitators were not ‘practicing what they preached.’ They were likely to walk into group sessions not focussed, in the zone, or ready to sit with participants distress as they made sense of behaviour. As you and I know, distress often leaks out in a variety of behaviours within group sessions. At times, we have to manage our internal dialogue and emotions. Not always an easy task.

Mindfulness practice allows us to be in control of our mind, instead of letting our mind be in control of us. It is about learning to be in control of where we are placing our attention. It is about waking up from life on auto-pilot.

Mindfulness is essentially about:

  • Becoming more aware
  • Participating more in our life and our experiences
  • Being present in the moment (i.e. not in the past or the future)
  • Not judging ourselves, others, and reality all the time
  • Becoming increasingly perceptive and more aware of our biases without needing to act in every instance. This point is important. When facilitators model to group participants that we do not have to be reactive, instead learning to sit with wondering, they provide a great gift.

As an outcome of the conversation around maintaining our own therapeutic agency in the group room, I suggested a good starting point is for facilitators to undertake ten minutes of mindful practice as part of their preparation ritual for the session. Facilitators could then clear the clutter of previous activities (reduce cognitive overload), lower heart rate (allow for more frontal lobe presence), and reduce emotionality (this would reduce the propensity to trigger the amygdala, our fear and flight system or commonly known as our safety system). This would contribute to walking into the session with a sense of calm which will allow better engagement with participants.

I invite you to incorporate mindful practice ahead of your sessions. Love to hear the impact this has on your ability to remain present throughout the session.

Published on Tuesday, September 27th, 2016, under Learning & development, Offender work, Practice tips and techniques

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