Self-Help Support Groups
SHARE! Culver City and SHARE! Downtown are friendly, accessible and supportive centers where a large community of self-help groups meet each week, addressing all kinds issues such as anger management, health, depression, self-esteem, relationships, childhood abuse, substance abuse, reaching goals, and many more. The rooms are air-conditioned and comfortably furnished.
Together we host more than 130 weekly meetings with monthly attendance of 5,000 people.
SHARE! accepts brochures and flyers for distribution at our centers, so agencies and others can reach the self-help community. We also have lots of volunteer opportunities for people, including those doing court-ordered community service. We accept all volunteers, even those with limited skills or felony convictions.
Here’s how to find a Support Group (Printable PDFs):
- To find a support group at SHARE! Culver City: April 2017 SHARE! Culver City Meeting Directory
- To find a support group at SHARE! Downtown: April 2017 SHARE! Downtown Meeting Directory
- Dual Diagnosis Self-Help Support Groups throughout Los Angeles County: April 2017 Dual Diagnosis Support Groups
- Childhood Trauma Self-Help Support Groups throughout Los Angeles County: February 2017 Childhood Trauma Support Groups
- Call SHARE! toll-free at 1-877-SHARE-49 or (310) 305-8878
- Access the Self-Help Group Sourcebook OnLine to find out about what already exists at http://www.amhc.org/selfhelp/
Meeting Guidelines – Revised March 2015
All meetings at SHARE! are self-help meetings with no professionals, licensed facilitators or experts. The philosophy of SHARE! is that each person is responsible for his or her own recovery and that every person’s experience is as valid as any others.
The purpose of SHARE! is to provide a safe, non-judgmental environment in which people can grow by sharing feelings, experiences and hope, enabling them to lead happy, healthy and productive lives. SHARE! was founded in 1992 by service-minded people in the recovery community to carry the message of recovery to those still suffering by creating a safe haven for people to make changes in their lives. We have lived the power of recovery and we are excited to include you and your meeting in our community. We are excited to work with you to help us reach out to those in need. SHARE! is a project of the Emotional Health Association, a California non-profit organization.
MEETING RESPONSIBILITIES: SHARE! agrees to provide meeting space for your meeting as long as the meeting upholds its responsibilities listed below. Those who sign the meeting contract are responsible to keep the participants of their respective meetings informed of these responsibilities.
SPACE USE: Permission to use SHARE! facilities at any other than the specified time must be requested in advance. SHARE! has facilities available for dances, sobriety birthdays, pressure groups, step studies, marathon meetings, 5th step work, central office space and events. Use of SHARE! for any of those purposes can be arranged by calling (310) 305-8878. Unauthorized use of SHARE!’s meeting facilities is not allowed.
MEETING CONTRACT: We ask that each meeting at SHARE! fill out a meeting contract with the name, email address and phone number of at least three people in the meeting. SHARE! must be notified in writing of changes in meeting representatives as soon as they occur, preferably by filling out a new meeting contract which can be found near the office door.
DONATIONS: The meeting agrees to give SHARE! a minimum of $5 per meeting. In addition, the meeting agrees to pay 100% of the meeting collection up to $10. The meeting will keep half of any collection which exceeds $10. (For example, if the meeting collects $20, the meeting pays $15 to SHARE! and keeps $5. If the meeting collects $12, the meeting pays $11 to SHARE! etc.)
This amount is payable the first week of the month by check or money order. No cash is accepted because of the expense of counting the cash and because of auditing requirements. Please mark on the check the time, day and title of your meeting. Fill out a meeting payment envelope, place the check in give it to a Volunteer Coordinator. In the event the office is closed, please slip the envelope under the door.
MEETING SIGN-IN: Each meeting must sign in each week and fill in all relevant information about how many people attend and how much is collected. This information is to be recorded on the Orange Sheets in the sign-in notebook found in each meeting room. Blank Orange Sheets can also be found on the table right outside of the SHARE! office. Directions on completing the sign-in sheet are on the inside cover of the meeting sign-in books. You may also ask a Volunteer Coordinator for help in filling them out.
SERVICE: SHARE! needs your help in spreading and maintaining an atmosphere of recovery. Service uplifts our spirit is can prove a vital part of recovery by giving us the opportunity to help others by sharing our experience, strength and hope. SHARE! believes that service is an essential part of recovery which builds the spirit of community and recovery that we desire to instill in all those who come to SHARE!. We need you and your meeting to join us in this special aspect of recovery by taking on a service commitment at SHARE!. In that spirit, each meeting agrees to do a minimum of four hours of service at SHARE! every three months. The Volunteer Coordinators have tasks that need to be done. Perhaps your meeting sees a project that would make SHARE! better for everyone and wants to help with that. Some meetings do not have the ability to do service, those meetings may make donations instead of their service.
COMMUNITY MEETINGS: Occasionally SHARE! holds community meetings. Everyone is welcome to attend and has a vote. Each meeting must send at least one representative to the community meeting.
COMMUNICATION: Periodically we communicate with the meeting via messages on the message board located in each meeting room. The meeting must check the board at the beginning of each meeting and make all necessary announcements.
DEPOSIT: SHARE! collects a $10 meeting deposit for all meetings happening at SHARE!.
POLICIES: No alcohol, drugs, gambling, smoking or pet are allowed at SHARE!. Service animals are allowed but must have proper identification.
BABYSITTING: Children must be supervised at all times. SHARE! encourages meetings to help parents attend meetings by offering babysitting. Each person in the meeting could babysit for the length of one share and then swap with another meeting goer. If our parents had gone to meetings, many of us would have started at a much better place in our recovery. Meetings may decide to provide their own babysitter. Meetings needing regular babysitting can also request a free babysitter from SHARE!. SHARE! will try to provide the babysitter, but cannot guarantee that every request be met. A parent or guardian must remain on the premises for the duration of any babysitting.
NO DISCRIMINATION: A meeting may designate itself with any focus, such as “Men Only’, “Women Only”, “Gay and Lesbian”, “Christian”, “Jewish”, “African-American”, “Japanese”, or by any other designation. Each meeting agrees not to exclude people arbitrarily or without due process or discriminate against people within the group on grounds of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identification, age, religion or disability.
Some non-religion focused meetings customarily use God and/or prayers from religious source, such as the Lord’s Prayer, although a religious focus is not specified in the title of the meeting. We understand that it is not the intention of these meetings to discriminate unjustly. To comply with SHARE!’s non-discrimination policy, these meetings will be designated with an asterisk in SHARE!’s meeting directory.
AFTER YOUR MEETING: Each user group is expected to clean up after their meetings. SHARE! does not have a janitor or someone to clean up after meetings. Thus each meeting is responsible to see that SHARE! is left in order for the next group. Leave the furniture arranged in an orderly fashion. Please turn off the lights after your meeting. Please report any damage or any needed repairs, maintenance, etc., however remember we rely on volunteers to fix problems. Perhaps someone in your group has the expertise to do the repairs.
Your use of the facilities is contingent upon those in your meeting honoring all of the above.
Best Practices for the Structure of Self-Help Support Groups
SHARE! strongly suggests that the format of the meeting be a written document that different members read at each meeting. Meetings with shared leadership retain more members, last longer and help more people. If you are starting a new meeting, it makes sense to see if there is already a format for the issue you wish to address. The American Self-Help Clearinghouse is a place to find out about what already exists (http://www.amhc.org/selfhelp/). If you cannot find anything, then here is what SHARE! recommends as best practices for the structure of self-help support groups. Choose what works best for your meeting. As they say in the groups “Take what you like, and leave the rest!”
WELCOME: Welcome everyone and let everyone know what meeting they are attending and what time the meeting ends. These are the two biggest concerns of newcomers: 1) Am I in the right place? and 2) How long is this meeting? Answering these up front will allow newcomers to relax and listen.
WHY ARE WE HERE?: Describe in terms that each participant understands and relates to, whatever it is that brings them together. This section can make or break a meeting. It is the ice breaker, which make it OK to talk about the meeting’s focus at a trusting, deep and feeling level as soon as the sharing begins. Make lists or narratives of feelings, characteristics and situations, which the group members can particularly relate to. This section should deeply affect everyone in the meeting. This section is often read by someone other than that day’s group leader.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?: Here we give members tools and hope for a better life. Some meetings list tools, such as attending meetings, calling people in the meeting, writing feelings, etc. Others talk about goals the group members share, and how reaching those goals will make their lives happier. Research has shown that meetings that give people hope attract and retain members better. The idea of this section is to provide hope. This section is often read by someone other than that day’s group leader.
EDUCATION: Some groups a) read from a book, b) do an exercise from a workbook or one brought in by a member, c) have a guest speaker or d) some other form of education. This can be very helpful, but it can also take away from the community-building aspect of the self-help group, which is the health-enhancing aspect of the group. It is important that this part of the meeting not inhibit people from sharing their feelings later on. It is easy for people to think that “education” is more important than me or my feelings and not leave time for the “intimacy” which make groups prolong lives, etc. We suggest that if meetings want to have an education section that they set 10 to 20 minutes aside for it, and then make sure that any “expert” or “authority” that was brought in, loses that role for the rest of the meeting. We strongly suggest that the same member or members of the group not do the educational portion at each meeting, as this skews the egalitarianism of the group and takes away from the personal responsibility of each member. In cases where the expert is someone who could not be a member of the group, it may be appropriate to ask them to leave after their presentation. Research has shown that many members drop out after six months of groups that focus on speakers or education.
SHARING: This is the most important part of the self-help meeting: listening to others who feel the same way and speaking to others who know how you feel. This is where the community building takes place. Ideally each person should be given three to ten minutes of time to speak uninterrupted about their feelings, experiences, hopes and fears. No one should ask questions or make any comments during someone else’s share. Each person sharing should concentrate on their own feelings and experiences, avoiding talking about others in the group. Confidentiality of the speakers must be guaranteed. Speakers are encouraged to speak in the First Person (I, me, mine) and avoid speaking in the Second Person (you, your, yours). This section is where members learn that they are not alone. Expression of feelings is greatly encouraged. It may help to have Kleenex available.
FEEDBACK: Most self-help groups do not have a formal part of the meeting for feedback. Feedback can undermine the feeling of being completely heard and understood, which is a large part of the healing that takes place in a support group. After the meeting people stand around and talk informally. People who want feedback can ask during their share for feedback after the meeting.
In a very small meeting (less than 5 people) feedback can be used to enrich the learning experience of those in attendance. But again, we caution that unregulated feedback can cause great harm to the group and to individuals in the group, so we do not recommend it, except in limited circumstance. Feedback which is structured to include only someone’s own experience in a similar situation, can make a small group have the benefits of a larger one. Under no circumstances should feedback be judgmental or in the form of advice. Sticking to “I” statements only, with no “you” statements, is one way of achieving this. Some meetings have had success with statements of encouragement only, e.g. “You really handled that well,” “You have made a lot of progress,” “I can understand how you felt.”
COLLECTING MONEY: Everyone should be given the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of the group. Support groups have expenses such as rent, literature, flyers, refreshments, etc. When members pay their way there is a certain ownership of the group that follows as well as an entitlement and self-esteem. Many groups pass a basket for donations. Some have a set fee such as $3 or $5 per meeting. Most groups do not keep track of who has paid what, etc. so that even those without funds can attend without shame. Spending money on one’s own well-being is a sign of self-esteem.
ANNOUNCEMENTS: During this time the group’s business is transacted and newcomers are informed of literature, phone list, and any other resources available. If someone needs a ride, this is the time to ask for it. Many meetings prefer to leave major business, such as rewriting the format, decisions about money, problems in the group until after the meeting. They announce during the meeting that there will be a business meeting or in 12-Step language a “group conscience” at the end of the next meeting. Then those who are interested can plan for it and be there and those who don’t care don’t have to be. While this may seem like the most accommodating way, it may hinder the learning of personal responsibility and the skill of working through problems. We recommend that group decisions be made during the announcement part of the meeting.
Some meetings set aside ten minutes each meeting to discuss “business.” This may be too much time for most meetings. It is OK to try different ways of doing things and then figure out what works best. We recommend that compromises be sought to problems. Ideally each decision should be a consensus, not majority rules. When the meeting is divided, we suggest trying the new way for three meetings. Often before the third meetings happens, the problem is solved and everyone sees a consensus.
ENDING: The ending usually includes reminders about the confidentiality of the group; that what is said in the meeting is not for gossip or outside disclosure. It gives a word of hope to those who haven’t been in the meeting long and suggests that people try the meeting six times before they decide if it is helping them. It reminds people to let others who can benefit from the meeting, know about the meeting.
Finally the group does something together such as standing in a circle and reciting a statement of unity or clapping to celebrate themselves. It is very important that everyone in the meeting feel welcome to participate in the ending. Many 12-Step programs traditionally used the Lord’s Prayer as their ending. This resulted in many non-Christians and minority Christians (who use a different version of the prayer) feeling left out. A few years ago, Alcoholics Anonymous World Service began suggesting to their meetings that they choose a different ending because of the people who felt excluded. The purpose of the self-help group is to bring love and acceptance to everyone who participated.
If you do decide to use a statement, we suggest something like:
I put my hand in yours
And together we can do
What we could never do alone.
No longer is there a sense of hopelessness.
No longer must we each depend
Upon our own unsteady willpower.
We are together now
Reaching out our hands for strength
Greater than our own.
And as we join hands
We find love and understanding
Beyond our wildest dreams.
* Adapted from “I Put My Hand in Yours” by Roxann, copyright Overeaters Anonymous 1969, 1983. Used with permission.
FELLOWSHIP: After the meeting, people will often join together socially for conversation and camaraderie to “fellowship.” Fellowship gives people from the meeting a more casual atmosphere to establish closer friendships. People can get feedback on issues that came up in the meeting, and newcomers have a chance to ask whatever questions they may have about the recovery process. Fellowship gives everyone the essential social relationships and friendships they can use to build a sturdy foundation in their recovery. People get a chance to use and practice the tools learned in the meeting in social situations. Perhaps most importantly, it gives everyone a fun, intimate outlet where they can be themselves with peers.
Want More Information?
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