Things to Consider Before Starting a Group

Make sure you can answer these seven questions before you start a support group.

1. Why do you want to start the group?

  • Are you a professional and you have noticed a common trend of vision problems with the people you serve? You want to help them and running a vision loss support group falls within the scope of your professional duties.
  • Are you someone with vision loss and you can’t find a group near you but want to meet other people with vision loss? Running a group is not the same as participating in a group. You might still benefit from attending a support group.

Consider attending one or more other support groups and pay attention to how they are run. What do you like about what was done?

2. What kind of time do you want to devote to running the group?

  • Long term on-going: this gives time for meaningful relationships to develop. Older group members are there to provide to new group members. Usually social and educational programming are woven together.
  • A set number of meeting dates: usually there is a curriculum. Many groups may decide to continue meeting after the meetings have completed to continue the sense of support and community.

3. What is your view of group leadership?

  • Are you a person with a vision who knows what they want? All groups feel more comfortable with a “go-to” person.
  • Are you not willing or nervous about bearing the burden of leadership by yourself? Consider asking someone to be your co-leader.

4. Are you comfortable facilitating a group?

There will be many different personalities and it will be your job to keep everyone on-track with the group activities and/or discussion.

5. What do you feel you need to learn before you start running the group?

6. Have you secured a viable location?

  • Can your intended participants get there?
  • Can the lighting and glare be adjusted?
  • Are there accessible washrooms?
  • Is there a public address system if needed for speakers? Are the acoustics good enough for everyone to hear each other?

7. Have you decided a meeting time and duration?

  • Consider who your target group members are? Are they likely to be free during the day/evening/weekends? When is the transportation available? Are they likely to be away for long weekends seeing grandchildren? Is their ability to see likely to be affected by evening darkness?
  • Meetings should be long enough that people consider it worth the effort to attend but not so long that it is difficult to fill up the time with meaningful discussion or activities. 1.5 hours is average. Speakers usually take about an hour and the extra half hour provides a cushion of time for socializing or informal discussion/sharing.
  • It is not unusual for groups to break for the winter and resume when the weather is better and daylight hours are longer.