Session #8 Consolidating learning & building a valued life
Housekeeping, announcements, & check in
Building a valued life
Review of individual and group learning
Wrap up: Check out
Resources & materials
- Name tags.
- Notepads & pens.
- Whiteboard markers.
Housekeeping, announcements, & check in:
Given that a focus of the final session is to support participants to reflect on overall learning and future life goals, the formal check in may be briefer than usual. Alternatively, the ‘Review exercise’ may be presented and configured in the form of an extended 'check in'.
Module content 1: Consolidating learning
This module is about consolidating the learning that has taken place over the previous seven weeks, and reflecting upon the 'Hopes and aspirations' established in Session #1.
The structure of the closing group session can be adapted to the needs and wishes of the group. Typically, we would plan to deliver more of the module content on the first half of the session, and allow for more reflective activities in the later part of the session. These activities may include an active reflection from the teaching material, meditative practice, completion of measures, and an extended check out exercise focusing on what participants will take away from the group.
This session is an opportunity to review the collective and individual experience and learning from participating in this group, and to consider 'where to from here'. It is about acknowledging and supporting participants to consider and reflect upon the experience of the group, the achievements, and the learning/value they take away from the group. It is also very much about supporting the men to look forward, to vision where to from here 'for them', to consider what are their particular values, hopes, aspirations, and preferred ways of living life, and what steps they can take to make this happen. It is about further foregrounding the person as the 'author' and 'architect' of their life.
Group and individual hopes and aspirations
'Group hopes and aspirations' created in Session #1 are to be placed in a prominent place for participants to consider and reflect upon. In finishing up the group, facilitators can note that, whilst a number of the group's hopes and aspirations may have been covered, participants may identify some areas that they would like either more information on, or personal support addressing. Building on the work of the group, it is recognised that each individual will have their own particular hopes and aspirations for their life going forward, and that now is a time to start to map out key domains of life they would like to work on. There are variety of exercises that can support this stocktake in the present, and work to articulate and build a future.
Formal working through and reflection on group's hopes and aspirations (if appropriate)
If appropriate, an initial focus can be placed on reviewing and reconsidering the group's hopes and aspirations, and whether these have been met, before moving to a focus on identifying what each individual's priorities are going forward. Inform the group members that, after the break, there will be an opportunity to review and reflect upon the group experience, and to share what it has meant for them personally to participate in the group. Therefore, the initial focus is on the 'tasks' the group members set to be covered.
Facilitators to put up the 'Group hopes and aspirations', and invite each of the men, individually and as a group, to reflect and consider:
- Which of the hopes and aspirations have been met for you?
- Which of the hopes and aspirations are outstanding and would benefit from more attention for you?
- Are there topics that were covered that were not on your original list, but it was useful to cover?
- If you were asked to create a new list now, which hopes and aspirations would you include, and what additional topics would you look to cover into the future?
Personal stocktake chart
This personal stocktake exercise supports participants to 'take stock'; to look at 'where they have come from' and 'where they are now' in relation to identified key domains of life. This taking stock is about surveying the land before inviting participants to consider 'where to from here' for them.
Introduce the 'Personal stocktake chart'. This chart is designed to support a personal stocktake in relation to key domains of life. It is a tool that can be used on a monthly basis to keep track of how you are travelling, according to you. Typically participants are invited to place a mark for each of the domains, and to join these together with a single line for each stocktake. In introducing the personal stocktake, facilitators note that the scoring is personal and will understandably fluctuate over time, and also that there is no suggestion that anyone can score 100% in all domains at any time.
The identified domains have been selected for their contribution to overall personal well-being:
- Partner relationship/intimacy
- Relationships/friendship/social connections
- Physical health and well-being
- Study & learning
- Work/meaningful activity
- Understanding/managing trauma/emotions
- Self care/self compassion
- Additional area of interest
For this exercise, participants are provided with a copy of the 'Personal stocktake chart'. Participants are invited to place a mark (rating 0-100) on each of the domains that represents:
- When things were at their toughest (in the last 6 months).
Facilitators to note that, different from general well-being scales, the domains related to 'Understanding/managing trauma/emotions' and 'Self care/self compassion' are included in recognition that there are particular challenges that confront men who have been sexually abused, or sexually assaulted, and demand attention. An ‘Additional area of interest’ is included on the chart in recognition that everyone is unique, and each individual may wish to keep track of how they are travelling in relation to a domain of life they have identified as a priority for them (be it parenting, learning a new language, community engagement, daily mindfulness, spirituality, sexuality, environmental activism etc.)
This personal stocktake is not intended to replace validated tools like the 'Well-Being Self Assessment' (Warwick and Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale) available on the Living Well app. It is a personalised tool for participants to keep track of how they are travelling according to them. The scoring of different domains in a chart format is useful in that it provides a visual snapshot that quickly identifies for participants any areas that will benefit from additional attention in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Facilitate group discussion. Participants are invited to share their experience of the exercise:
- What did you notice in relation to your rating of when things were at their toughest in the last 6 months and now?
- What did you notice in relation to your rating of how you are travelling with respect to the different life domains? Do some domains stand out for you as an area that you are doing ok in, or that deserves some extra attention? If you were to select a particular domain that you would like to focus on improving, or were to add an additional domain, what would that be?
Module content 2: Building a valued life
This module is about allowing the participants to consider what will make a valued life for them, and how they can achieve that goal.
Elements of valued living: Knowing your values
Dealing with distressing experiences, like memories of sexual abuse, anxiety, and depression take a lot of our energy, and at times it might feel like it takes all you've got just to stay afloat. In order to get ourselves in a better place to deal with these difficulties, and life's problems in general, it is worth putting some time and energy into identifying what you stand for as a person: what you value.
Our values act as a kind of reference guide or compass for who we are, how we act in particular situations, and where we want to go in life. If we possess a clear sense of purpose and direction, and act according to our values, then we are less likely to feel overwhelmed, or be knocked off course, when we experience challenging situations.
Our values might be based on how we were brought up, on religious or spiritual tradition, or on particular ethics or an approach to life that we have adopted. We might value being calm, honest, considerate, 'giving people a fair go', being creative, thoughtful, reliable, and/or 'doing our best'.
Whatever the history of our values, they are essentially our sense of the right way for us to live. When we act in accordance with our values, we generally see our life as purposeful and meaningful. However, we usually hold our values implicitly; in other words, we don't often consciously think about and name our values in a structured way. By identifying our values, we establish a basic guide for us in our life. This approach to life does not mean we are never confronted by difficult situations, unwelcome thoughts, or uncomfortable feelings. It is just that our focus is on calming and centring ourselves, and acting in accordance with what we have established as our preferred, valued way of living life.
Group exercise: Imagine your 80th birthday
This exercise is an excellent tool to support each participant to identify what they most value in life. The outcome can be utilised to identify future goals and committed action that support participants living a meaningful valued life for them.
Invite group participants to close their eyes (if comfortable to do so) and imagine that they are at their 80th birthday party. Ask them to visualise it clearly. Their closest friends and family are gathered to celebrate this significant milestone. This is a fantasy birthday party - so there are people present who would not, in reality, be able to be there. Everyone they have ever, or will ever, cared about is present to celebrate their life.
Then ask, "If people at the party were asked the following questions about your 80-year-old self, what would you like people to say?"
- What is he like as a person?
- What does he stand for?
- What is important for him?
- What has he done with his life?
To add greater meaning to this exercise, facilitators might purchase and distribute 80th birthday cards, and ask the participants to write the answers to the above questions. This exercise is all about centring the person, helping them to identify what is important to them, and to articulate the kind of person they wish to be in the world going forward. Some participants may find it useful to refer to the life domains listed in the 'Personal stocktake' exercise or in the Guide for Men.
The first three questions specifically help to identify values, and the fourth assists in helping to identify life goals.
The 80th birthday exercise is to be debriefed in the larger group (if preferred, in dyads first, ensuring there is equal time for each person).
- What was the exercise like for you?
- What was it like to consider the kind of person you want to be remembered as?
- What was it like to consider what you stand for?
- What did you identify as important to you?
- If you are going to live a life according to these values, what goals do you need to set yourself?
- What do you have to do in the short, medium, and long term, if this is going to become a reality?
These last two questions are about moving towards committed action. It is about recognising that living a valued life means not only identifying what is important for you, and what is a valued life for you. it is about developing clear goals and taking action in accordance with these goals.
Developing goals and committed action
When participants have developed a picture of what is important to them, and how they want to live life, it can be useful to develop short, medium ,and long term goals according to selected life domains. In order to keep the exercise manageable and doable in the time available, participants are invited to select one or two areas of their life, e.g. relationships, physical health, and well-being, and then identify short, medium, and long term goals for each domain. What is short, medium, or long term will depend on the goal in question, it might be 1 month, 6 month, 3 years or maybe 1 day, 1 month, 1 year, or even some other time frames. Once a goal is identified, focused and committed action is required to make it happen.
The facilitator is to outline the merits of using a SMART goals model in determining and committing to a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Framed. Participants introduced to SMART goals (handout provided) and invited to choose a goal they wish to focus on and work through the SMART goals model.
Group discussion and debrief
Participants invited to identify personal goal in large group and, if completed, to name steps using SMART goal model. Facilitators may select and work through a goal using the SMART goal model, in relation to one of the identified life domains, to further support group discussion.
The life change list
This exercise is about inviting each participant to start to consider a life where the impacts of the sexual abuse are less influential. It is an alternative way to start to consider what is important in life, and what changes they might make in order to live a life that they would value and appreciate.
It is vital that the group understand that we are not asking them to imagine that the abuse did not happen, or that there is a 'magical' place where the experience of sexual abuse and reminders of it no longer exist. They are invited to consider what they might change, to do more of or less of, in order to have a fulfilling life that better works for them in the present and future. This exercise is about further foregrounding and identifying the person as the 'author' and 'architect' of their life (different from a life centred around responding to traumatic effects and symptom reduction).
Invite the group members to consider, individually or in dyads, 'If you were to make changes to your life that meant you were living more of the kind of life that you want to live, what would be different?'
Provide the group participants with a copy of the 'Life change list of questions' to consider:
- How would you behave differently?
- How would you walk and talk differently?
- How would you play, work and act differently?
- How would you relate to others differently: your friends, relatives, partner, parents, children and work colleagues?
- How would you behave differently around people?
- What sort of things would you start doing or do more of?
- What would you stop doing or do less of?
- How would you relate to yourself differently?
- How would you treat your health and your body differently?
- How would you talk to yourself differently?
- How would your character be expressed differently?
- How would an increased sense of self confidence influence how you are in relationships, and how you are in the world?
- What goals would you set and work towards?
Where possible, participants to be provided with a take away copy of the above 'Life change list' and 'SMART goal model' to consider and reflect upon. This exercise is all about supporting participants in building a valued life.
A fifteen minute break is held following this module.
Module content 3: Review of individual and group learning
This module is about closing the 8 session course, reviewing individual and group learning throughout the course, and providing resources for men so they can build upon the foundations they have established in this course.
This break is typically extended in order to ensure plenty of time for the men to share food and engage with each other.
A variety of tasks need to be accomplished at this stage, given it is the last session of the program. Ideally for group process and participant support, it is better to complete some of these administrative tasks prior to a final closing circle. Administratively, the following steps should be undertaken:
- Complete outcome measures
- Complete the group feedback evaluation form
Provide information about whatever follow up resources the organisation provides to participants post Foundations, such as a monthly support group, phase 2 programming, drop in group, or other community resources. If such resources exist, we recommend this information be contained in a handout of ‘Additional resources for graduates of Foundations'.
This continuum exercise is an opportunity for the men to note the 'movement' they have experienced over the course of the group. This exercise is like the previous continuum exercise from the first week, inviting the men to place themselves on an imaginary line that signals their 'comfort level' in participating the group. Except with an additional step.
The question of men's 'comfort level' is particularly pertinent, given that a common legacy of sexual abuse is men experiencing overwhelming concern, anxiety, and discomfort at the thought of being with people who knew that they have been sexually abused or assaulted. This anxiety and concern would typically have led men to isolate themselves, and limit opportunities for engagement and learning.
First the men are invited to place themselves on an imaginary line that reflects their 'comfort level' in attending the first session of the group. One end of the continuum is 'Feeling really uncomfortable, inner voice saying I don’t want to be here, it’s easier to exit', at the other end 'Feeling comfortable, this is good, this is the right place for me to be right now'.
As indicated previously, this exercise is not about 'comparing yourself to others' or where others may be standing on the continuum, it is about noticing where you are standing, the thoughts and feelings that you experience, and that however much discomfort there might have been, you chose to stay.
Next, invite the men to place themselves on an imaginary line that signals their 'comfort level' in attending the final session of the group. Facilitators to invite participants to notice and log any movement they have made and to consider what has contributed to this movement for them. Participants are invited to comment if they so wish. It is useful for facilitators, with the men’s permission, to collect the testimonies and insights of the participants, in order to share with men who may be considering attending the group.
As this Foundations group is coming to a close, it is important that there is an opportunity for group members to join together to reflect on the experience of participating in the group, express what it is they have appreciated about the group, and the contributions other participants have made. While the men may meet up with each other in different contexts in the future, maybe at the follow on Monthly support group or Stage 2 group (Canada), this is the last time to the group will be together in this format. Facilitators have a role in introducing and supporting the discussion, and in expressing their appreciation, taking time to note participants' contributions in working through difficult subject matter with sensitivity, understanding, compassion and care for each other (plus acknowledging the use of encouraging, light-hearted humour). Participants invited to share their responses to the following questions:
- What did you appreciate about attending this group?
- What did you appreciate about the contribution of fellow group members?
- What has participating in the group meant for you?
- What will you take away and wish to remember?
With the men's permission, it is valuable to record the men's comments in order to share with men considering participating in a future group.
If the program utilises a graduation certificate, or mark completion of the group with a small gift, this would be the time for the facilitators to present the certificate/gift to each man. Finally, the facilitators can offer once again their heartfelt observations and appreciation to the men in the circle.
This brings to a close the 8 session Foundations program.
Follow up drop in/support group: Professionally facilitated peer support group
Following completion of the Foundations group, it is recommended that the opportunity for a support group or 'drop-in' group, as a form of 'professionally facilitated peer support group', is considered (if the facilitators/service have the resources and availability for this to occur).
The focus of Foundations has been in supporting the participants in establishment of more solid and grounded ‘foundations’: there is no expectation that all difficulties will have been resolved. The hope is that the men will use the experience and learning to build on these foundations to enhance their life and relationships. A support group will allow ongoing contact and peer support between the group members, as well as provide a forum for them to share experiences and ideas.
As a professionally facilitated peer support group, these sessions are less structured, yet can address certain themes or topics as identified by group members. If preset material is going to be covered during these sessions, some unstructured time needs to be set aside to give group members the opportunity to share anything they want. The option of attending the drop-in/support sessions should be proposed to the group towards the end of the initial Foundations group. The introduction of a 'guest speaker' from the drop in professionally facilitated peer support group (in Session #7 or #8 of Foundations) can provide a personal bridge to this group. Like all services and support, the support group will benefit from evaluation and review to ensure it is responsive and supportive of participants' enhanced personal and relational well-being.
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