Frequently Asked Questions About Peer Coaching Groups (PCGs)
We assume that you have already read the information on the page Start
a Virtual Support Group to Help With Stresses of COVID-19. The information
on that page would answer all of the typical questions about planning and operating
a support group. However, the following questions still tend to get asked. The
phrases “support group” and “peer coaching group” (PCG)
are used interchangeably.
About the PCG Process
Who Are the “Peers” in PCGs?
How Are the PCGs So Good at Helping Members to Support
How Can People Feel Safe and Accepted in PCGs?
Are PCG’s Really Just Therapy Sessions?
Don’t I Have to Be a Therapist to Do a Support Group?
How is the PCG Process Evaluated?
How Do I Know What Priority to Get Coached On?
What is “Coaching” in Each Meeting?
What Are Some Coaching Approaches (or Models) to Use in
How Do I Know What Kind of Help to Give a Member?
What If a Member Finishes Their Time Slot Early?
What is “Successful” Coaching?
How Do I Know What Actions to Take Between Meetings?
About Modifying the PCG Process
About Using Materials and Getting Help
All members are “peers” in that they come together as equals to support
every member’s progress during the group’s meetings. Thus, in a PCG intended
as a support group, you could have a senior executive from one company with
a secretary from another company — and they’d still be peers in the group.
Support means more than letting people express their feelings — and affirming
and validating them, as well. It also means helping people to perceive their
situations differently and to act on those situations. PCGs are great
for helping people to do all of that. In PCGs around the world over the past
two decades, members often report that networking and support are the two biggest
outcomes that they are getting from each other.
All of the members in the PCG have something in common — they all understand
each other’s situation. Members also share biographies and introductions with
each other. The ground rules (that are asserted at the beginning and end of
each meeting) ensure confidentiality, that all opinions are honored and that
members can respectfully disagree with each other.
However, the most powerful experience of safety and acceptance for each member
is when he or she is getting help from other members in each meeting. Help is
in the form of nonjudgmental feedback, advice and thoughtful questions, as well
as contacting each other between meetings.
to Facilitate Support Groups
No. PCGs are focused on each member’s current priority in life or work, and
about what he or she can realistically do about it before the next group meeting.
Unlike therapies, PCGs are not focused on continuing to analyze each member’s
past in order to address a strong, recurring emotional and/or mental problem
that has had a significant and adverse effect on the member’s life. (Note that
some approaches to therapy, for example, Carl Roger’s self-directed therapy,
would seem somewhat similar to the approach used in support groups.)
No. There is a large number of support groups started by the members themselves.
Many of the topics correspond to the vast range of medical maladies that many
people experience around the world. In those groups, members help each other
by doing what many people do with their friends: they listen, they affirm, they
encourage and they empower.
Near the end of group meeting, each member shares out loud, a rating of the
quality of that meeting from “1” (very low) to “5” (very
high), and what he or she could have done during that meeting in order to improve
that meeting. Also, more comprehensive
evaluations can be done half-way through the number of meetings and shortly
after the last meeting.
There are millions of people concerned about the virus and many of them have
these. To recruit two to four people for your group, you could reach out
to your friends, neighbors, members of organizations that you belong to, contacts
in your social media groups and contacts in your email. Give them the Web address
of this page Help
Each Other Deal With COVID-19 Impacts and ask them to read the “Introduction.”
It concisely explains the need for support groups and how they could be so very
At this point, we are not equipped to manage a waiting list of facilitators
and potential group members, and then to begin matching them together. Thus,
we are counting on people to self-organize their own groups now. (If you’ve
got ideas, we’d love to hear them.)
If a person isn’t sure whether they would be comfortable in a PCG process,
then read this article and decide:
Suitability Assessment for Peer Coaching Groups (Word document)
The specific tasks of the facilitator are itemized in the section “Facilitation
Tasks” in the Quick Reference. There are even more specific talking
points in facilitating through a Quick Reference in the document:
to Facilitate Support Groups
In addition to the tasks in the section “Facilitation Tasks” in the
Quick Reference, the facilitator could review the guidelines in the
Techniques in Facilitating Peer Coaching Groups
That document is about when to intervene, what to do if the process is not
working for some members, how to deal with conflict, how to address problems
in attendance and participation, how to remove and add members, and how to deal
with strong emotions.
Choose whatever priority is most important to you now. You are the expert at
what is most important to you. Do not worry about how small or large in scope
that the priority is. Your priority can change from one meeting to another.
Coaching is the nature of the help that members use to help each other in their
meetings, whether it is advice, brainstorming or thoughtful questions. NOTE:
There are strong feelings, especially among practitioners in the profession
of personal and professional coaching, that coaching is only the asking of thoughtful
questions. Thus, they might strongly disagree with the above definition of coaching.
However, the goal of PCGs for support is to be helpful to each member according
to their nature and current needs in their meetings.
There is a vast number of coaching models available to practitioners today.
Many of them pertain primarily to one-on-one coaching formats. However, in a
group format like PCGs, there are several people concurrently doing coaching
and their time is limited for all of them together. Thus, it is often best to
use models that are simple and straightforward to use in a group.
Two examples are “Head, Heart and Hands” meaning to ask questions
about what the member thinks and then feels, but then always what he or she
will do (for example, with the hands). Another example is “Caring, Curious
and Concise” meaning that all questions should come from a place of caring
and curiosity regarding the member who is currently getting coached in a meeting.
Also, because of the tight time frame in a meeting, all questions should be
posed concisely to the member.
You might ask the member who is currently getting help during the “Coaching
Time Slots” part in the meeting. For example, ask “What kind of help
would be most useful to you now? Advice? Materials? Questions? Brainstorming?”
Each time slot should include the member’s selecting at least one realistic
action to take before the next meeting. If a member believes that he or she
has finished the coaching because an action was selected already, then the member
should get coached on how that action could occur. The coaching should continue
until all of the member’s allotted time has been used.
A group member is doing successful coaching if he or she is continually attending
to the member who is currently getting helped in a meeting. Successful coaching
does not mean that the member’s priority or problem has been successfully solved.
The actions that you take (as a result of the help that you get from other
group members) is up to you to select. However, it should be an action that
is realistic to accomplish before the next meeting.
You can modify the process to suit the nature of needs of your members. However,
you should always retain 1) individual time for each member to get coached in
each meeting, 2) verifying that each member’s actions from the coaching are
indeed realistic, and 3) an evaluation activity in each meeting that requires
each member to rate (out loud) the quality of each meeting.
If you believe that your members would benefit from having the PCG process
adapted to a particular culture. then use the guidelines in this article:
See the section Select
Which Virtual Technologies to Use.
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be freely shared.
(In order of above photos, courtesy of Pixabay, Markus Spiske, Prateek and Tembella Bohle on Pexels.htm)
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