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Being a Good Facilitator/Running a Support Group
Mar 4, 1998

Being a Good Facilitator/Running a Support Group

Dear Michael: I am about to attempt the reactivation of our Gay Men's HIV+ Support Group after a long period of client neglect and apathy. I live in a area where it can be sometimes felt like the minority of people infected and affected with HIV are homosexual men, which in reality is very much not the case. I find that when one lives in an area outside of New York—outside of San Francisco, or other gay metro's that there is a sad lacking in enthusiasm and even reluctance to the specific needs of our "community/family." I am very much aware that this is a problem shared by many living in a rural or even smaller cities. What is must difficult to accept/understand is this apathy found within of our own gay brothers—that fight this vital necessary resource of support. But, one of the hardest things to learn in social work and in all our lives is that certain understandings, trust, and sharing by an individual within a safe and compassionate group can be a very healing medicine. Everyone must come to these feelings/needs in their own time and space. Here is where I constantly have to delve deep into my personal responsibility of being patient, listening, understanding and just letting it go.

I reach out to you for some guidance and advice with perhaps anything you can share that would be helpful given your experience. I know that you have so much to offer, personally as well as with knowledge of resources of reading materials and perhaps where one might attend a lecture on such empowerment.

I have just received your book Gay Widowers which I had ordered at my local Border's book store. And although I am but half way through, it has already made a strong impact on me with the personal sharing of these widowers through their essays/prose. My heart has swelled with emotion, for a great deal of the personal things these men shared I too have shared and felt especially with all the memories of New York. How sad that often we cannot express openly our love and our grief as some other fellow human beings, or are made to think so.

Sincerely, Donn K

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Dear Donn,

Thanks for your positive feedback on my Widower's book. I am pleased that you are finding it useful.

Getting groups started and sustaining them is difficult in all locations, but as you so accurately note, especially more so outside of major urban centers. My only advice would be to allow it to be alright to begin small with only a few people attending. Stress the peer support nature of the group and encourage the men to share their experiences with others who might also benefit from the group support. If they feel that the group is beneficial to them, urge them to try and identify other men who they might like to see join the group, and ask them to approach these people.

Sorry that those are my only thoughts and suggestions. Best of luck in reactivating the group in your locale.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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