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By Charles Russell, Psy.D.
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The process of establishing and maintaining a peer support group of any kind can be challenging. There are unique considerations for priest support groups, including geographic distance, schedule challenges and day-to-day stressors of pastoral ministry. Taking the time to plan and design a support group that meets the participants’ needs can positively impact the group’s longevity and vitality as well as maximize the interpersonal and developmental benefits for the participants.
First, decide on the purpose of the support group. Examples include building fraternal relationships with peers, dealing with grief, stress, spiritual support, celibate chastity, anger, emotional competence, pastoral issues, or administrative skill building. Then discuss group leadership, format and other logistical considerations:
Member roles and responsibilities are also important to address. Below are some examples of different roles and responsibilities for group members:
Finally, it is essential to develop some simple guidelines to establish clear expectations for participation, such as:
Considerations for group discussion and interaction
Ongoing evaluation and feedback
A circumstance may arise that requires outside consultation. In this case, the assigned point of contact should communicate the nature of the request and severity of the issue with diocesan or community leadership.
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