Facilitating Your First Group
I remember vividly the first group I ever co-led during my doctoral internship. My experience in graduate school led me to believe that group is my love and passion. I participated as a group member in various training groups and even had a chance to co-lead a few of them. All of my experiences led up to that one moment; I was about to co-facilitate with my group supervisor. He had decades of experience facilitating and training numerous interns. Of course, I wanted to stand out. Of course, I wanted to be special. Of course, I wanted to impress him! On the outside, I looked calm and ready to go despite feeling tremendous anxiety on the inside. It was important to show him that I looked calm and competent.
A few minutes into our pre-group meeting, he looked straight at me and said: “Misha, I have two things to tell you. First, you need to make sure you’re having fun doing the group. If we are not having fun, it would not be a good experience for the group members.” The goal of having fun never entered my mind at any point during group training. I wondered what was the other piece of wisdom he was about to bestow on me.
“I need you to CTFD, please”, he said. I must have looked very puzzled because he chuckled and asked whether I knew what it meant. I had no idea. He leaned in and said “I need you to calm the f**k down. If something goes wrong, we will fix it.” We both burst out in laughter! With a sigh of relief and fear, I realized he could see right through my calm demeanor. Suddenly I realized that it was okay to be me. It was okay to have all kinds of experiences as a facilitator including anxiety. I also understood that no matter what happens in the group, we will deal with it. Something will always go wrong. However, we… I can fix it!
I took this idea to heart in my personal life as well. Instead of concentrating on what can go wrong interpersonally, I concentrate on our amazing capacity for repair. In groups, we repair — in more than one sense. In our personal life, CTFDing and engaging in repair, can lead to amazing deepness in any relationship.
I would like to pass this on to anyone about to start a group: CTFD, believe in your capacity to repair, and most importantly, have fun.