Harlan Jacobsen Copyright 2003


Been publishing a couple of newspapers for singles for over 30 years, and decided all that material and information that I worked so hard to put together may as well be doing some good.

That resulted in the classes and doing the web sites. When you write and publish a newspaper, next week they are lining the canarys cage with it, and it is gone, forever.

In contrast with the web and classes using the material, it just continues to help new people with little expense or effort once up, have less then a third of past material posted on the web now so we will be adding for a long time yet and since we get questions and still publish the papers we continue to write new articles.

If others can run classes and use this material, I am delighted to supply it and any help at no charge of any kind.

Unfortunately I have several businesses to keep running so my time available is not as much as I would like to work on all this, glad to hear from people when it is helping or what is working.

Only about one in 250 who take the courses for example ever bother to drop a note, even though we request it, as sort of a favor back.

Many people who have worked thru it do not want to be reminded they ever had a hard time working thru it, or that they ever knew you.

Others will long remember the help they got and will be glad to come back and and help those now going thru it.

One, I would not worry about size of a support group large or small, and I do not believe a class should have a time limitation, should be "on going" and not run out.  You have enough material to go for months, and I encouraged people to keep coming and even when they did not need it anymore to come and help others work thru what they had successfully worked thru.  You do not need to tie your self down, others can sub for you from time to time.

These were the most valuable people in the class, they would be in the little discussion groups of five or six, and lead the discussion in the group.  When they hear some of the material a second time they also pick up things they missed the first time thru cause they are now in a different place.

First 45 minutes we start with and do a little background about yourself, purpose of the group, how we operate, rules etc.,  (you have new attendees every week) and then sometimes we had a guest speaker, (usually local therapists did a thing for an honorarium) nice name for bucks (what would be about 35 bucks now I suppose).  Others came who did not have the big degrees and often had a great message and spoke for free.
I also have about 6 great motivational 16 mm films I showed (30 min).  Then I had maybe 50 outlines of talks on different divorce subjects (you really are not hyper then about whether your speaker shows up or not) and many of the articles on the web were written from these outlines.

After hearing audiences reaction and questions, doubts, etc.,  you can do your own thing or I can supply these, or you are welcome to adopt articles I and others have written and posted on the web.

Next came recess, often considered the best part of the class in that they could talk to whatever attendees they liked. 

Hard to get them back seated again so I had about 50 funny stories I started second half with to get them reseated, since I think it is important the second half be a full hour.  The second half they were seated in circles of 5 or 6 in each group, five about right, four ok too, this depends on number, space etc. 

Then you give them instructions, what today's question or problem is to start with, and they are told to go around their circle and each person states how they feel about this question.  
Each group finds or elects someone to be a reporter, and writes down what their group talked about, then when they finish, each reporter tells you the emcee, what their group talked about or said on the subject, you repeat and write on a black board or cardboard or flip chart all can see.
You add anything not listed, you remember from previous discussions or studying etc., and ask what they think about that.

After all groups have reported in, then you give them new problem to solve to find best answer, or question to discuss etc.

This repeats til you have about 7 or 8 minutes left.   Then I usually had some one read short inspirational big punch memorable little story, (one pager) or like St Francis prayer mentioned elsewhere here, etc. Then we formed one big circle and held hands.  Move your chairs off to the side and form a big circle and lets hold hands in this circle,

      and to tell you the truth forgot most of what we did for that next few minutes in a circle, for that couple minutes there, but probably repeated a couple of affirmations all together.  Example:  All together now, repeat after me, "Every day in every way, everything gets better and better", repeat one more time, "Every day in every way everything gets better and better". 

Or we had a funny little divorce song we sang together set to some well known songs music.

We then explained to the group, we usually went to Dennys for coffee together and everybody was invited to come join us (dutch of course) and that some of the best part of the class was at Dennys.

Then we said we were going to have hugging practice, now before we leave and we all needed to learn how to give and get hugs.  So before you leave now, be sure to get and give at least three hugs.  End of class how to for now.

Note:  We also did in some classes, occasional two person break ups into two sitting across from each other or knee to knee, discuss something and then one of you move down a partner, and we often put the class in a big circle and did the first half from the middle of the circle seating but that is all another story.  We tried to make it different every week and kept them guessing that it was not reruns every week, and they knew there would be new interesting single people to meet every week.

These often depressed and in pain persons looked forward to the classes as the highlight of their week.  Something to really look forward to where all could see there really was a light at the end of the tunnel.

It was not like going to church where you have to listen to a lecture (sermon) from same old person every week.  I suggest you read up on how Dale Carnegie ran his (success motivation) classes and also how Alcoholic anonymous runs their groups.  As I have said before we steal ideas, techniques, and concepts any place we can, as long as it helps make this work.

One of the main techniques I hope you pick up on, is that this class is enthusiastic about life, an up fun thing.  They often say, "how can you do this when most of these people are in grief or crying stage."

Fine I say, they come in that way but I try to not only give them a kick in the pants, that when they leave, they are laughing and having a good time.  That divorce is not some much of the end of something but a start of a new fun life.  So I mix in a lot of humor and over all up attitude, be an inspiration, by basically being enthused and up myself, and that is catching.  So that is what you need to learn to do as a class or group leader and am not sure to explain how to do that, but will try later.

By the way, for publicity, stick with support group, perhaps.  I however used recovery CLASS even in publicity.  I think support group tends to make you believe that when you go, you are relying on someone else.
Something men find hard to admit needing to do.  Where recovery class gives you this a "do it yourself" process you learn to do, so not sure which is better, though I must admit that I am about the only one that ran "recovery classes" everyone else seems to call what they run as a "support group".

I think however, I had more men in my classes then what others have in their groups, note that I also use a man in our graphic logo.

The main thing in the little groups of 5 or 6, is that you instruct them to see to it that everybody talks, not just some.  They go around the group circle and each say how they feel about the question being discussed.

Whoever they selected as group reporter writes down the points of what was said in the group. (you will need to take some paper and pens)

Example:  Today we are going to discuss - How Long Are you Going to be mad at your ex.  Then each gets to say how they feel about that, in other words here is a place to hear themselves talk about how they feel about that, then they hear others say how they feel about it or where they are at so the therapy here is "TALKING IT OUT".

How much good they get out of this group, even though you would like to think it is, it is not what you tell them or someone else tells them, it is hearing themselves express where they are at and hearing where others in the process are at.

So whether you are a great speaker, with a great message is relatively immaterial as long as you keep the group run right following the basic guidelines, for it to be self effective.

Now about the divorce board game.  I developed and used some time....

It is a board game, like monopoly.  You roll the dice and you move and land certain places and you draw one of these kind of cards, according to where you land, the card tells you to answer a question.  For example, the question above, then after you say your response, then they go around and all answer the same question or what ever it is.

This game has lots of spaces to land and lots of things to do, and in one setting the same thing does not come up again, cause you put the card back on the bottom.  They really like the game, and you can play it again next week and if the same thing should happen and same question etc, comes up again, it is okay, cause now you are in with a different group of people, in your 5 or 6 people and you get to hear different responses and solutions etc,.  End of discussion on game, back to group.

Then when they have all had time to answer the provided question, you ask each reporter for each group to report how their group felt about it or handled it or whatever they said.  You write on board or white poster etc., what each group said, so all can see varying answers.  So you get feedback and everyone hears not only what their group said, but what others groups talked about.  Now this takes maybe 15 minutes, so now you give them the next question to discuss.

Such as "were you the leavor or the leavee", lets discuss that and which has the most difficult time, the leavor or the leavee, in adjusting.

When I am hurting from divorce and I develop a group of friends going thru the same thing I am.  I depend on that each week, and I do not want to be told, that after 6 weeks, I get thrown back on my own, thats crazy, defeats the whole purpose.  If you only have 6 weeks of material for heavens sake just repeat it and if they want to continue, fine, let them and even encourage them, they will grasp a lot they were not ready for the first time thru. Biggest advantage, they relate things differently in their contribution to the group.

When they decide they don't need it anymore, they just stop coming, but they grow and move on by continuing to come and see that they have worked thru what these new people are going thru and it helps them to know that as well as helping the new people, they see they are working thru and growing from this that way, and get a lot of satisfaction in helping the new people.

Now recognize that not everybody comes every week for varying reasons.

Also note they do develop a real network of friends, that do a lot of things together outside of the group, and some will become friends for life, like soldiers in war who experience going thru a very difficult time together bond and become life long friends.

Once again I am "belittling your function", or what you need to do down to a small part of what happens here.  You can certainly make a big addition, but if you are not good at it thats okay, you are not the reason they come anyway.

You need to know or learn how to run a group like this for these affects, not worrying about whether you can handle it or not.  I always got others to help and do a lot of this, I did not try to be the big key or star of the show, and when I started I always had a volunteer partner each week and initially I had films, and other people (guest speakers, many given an honorarium) (bucks) who came in a spoke to the group, some I paid, some I did not.  Later on I did little of that, except when I felt lazy, pooped etc., or I had a speaker who had a new message we had not heard before.  I have about 8 motivational films that, I periodically showed one of these terrific motivational films with a great message, during the first half and the second half would be the little groups discussion thing mentioned previously.

Eventually I had so much material, I wanted to cover that I thought helped people in the classes and most things I could cover as well as them after I had heard what they had to say in two or three appearances, I then used the best part of what they brought to the class, and I delivered it.  So you see I have stolen material from one hell of a lot of people.

I still had guests sometimes, often just people who had been in the class last year, who came back to share their experience, etc,. So it was always a surprise when you came to my classes, you never knew for sure what was going to be the first half.  I often did not know either until the last minute.

I had lots of outlines of information, etc., so I just did not sweat it much.  Later on I always looked forward to it, cause I had usually had some new stuff I want to throw out, sort of run up the flag pole and see how they reacted to it, what you thrive on is the feed back from the groups, what is working for them, some of which came from you.

Now, I can tell you how to start this and I would suggest you have two or three places available in different sizes and then choose which ever fits what your last minute estimates are.

Where or what do you find to have your support group meet?

Main consideration is cost.  Needs to be free or almost free.  Second consideration is a place where people that are under emotional strain will feel free to attend. 

Church buildings are often available to groups or many  themselves sponsor support groups.  

Some divorced who need to be in a support group feel the church has let them down in their time of need and do not want to attend a church sponsored group or location. 
Others figure it is not their brand of church so they could not attend there etc. 

Nothing wrong with a church except you automatically exclude many.  There are often groups currently running in a nearby church but that should not exclude starting a non-church group.  

We suggest that some schools have some programs that allow use of the facility.  Some city park systems have buildings that are available for little cost for this type of meeting place.  Their are often Savings and Loan companies that have free or almost free meeting rooms. Apartment houses often have a public facility available for meetings, Coop housing facilities, etc.  

You will need to check out your local facilities but you will almost certainly be able to find something.

If under ten people expected use someone's house, etc.  You will need to put up a poster or something out front that says "divorce group" or whatever you call it, so they know they are at the right place.  Many are hyper and will leave if they can give themselves that slightest excuse "maybe this is not the right place".

Look up on our site, how to start a singles group , and find the part I wrote and daughter Janet wrote a similar part, read both of those, and then we can talk about adopting to this to starting a divorce group.

We discussed the NEED TO TALK IT OUT, whether they pay a therapist 75 bucks an hour to talk it out, or do it in the class, in fact the class has advantages because you hear how others feel, some the same way you do, and you see others who have worked thru some of this.

See recent article on "Two ways to work thru the pain" , key rule for facilitator is to get everyone into sharing how they think or feel about their situation right now, so in a full room you can ask a few of them such as, I recall in one opening of a class, I said to one, "Marie, you were here for the first time last week, would you mind telling us how it went for you this last week?", and I still remember her response, she said "it went much better, I only cried once last week."  Strange I should remember that 20 years later.

The group support system really is all about everyone talking about their feelings and progress. So in the small group discussion, the key rule is everyone talks.

Next need most, "support group operators" do not realize that you need to fill, is the need to be touched.  I have written a few articles on what we call skin hunger, but unable to locate them yet.  Accept the idea that one of the very big needs of the divorced is the need to be touched, and some dash out to find a new relationship because this need is so great they feel the only way to fill it is to develop a sexual relationship.

Many confuse the need to be touched with the need for sex, and get involved in emotionally devastating sex relationships to fill the need to be touched.

So help fill the skin hunger need and you help keep them out of more complications.  Many senior citizens starved for touching, constantly go to the hair dresser, the chiropractor, doctor etc., because of their need to be touched.  They don't say that, but that is the real reason they find excuses to do these things.

You can read the articles when I find them that explains this but understand this is something you need to provide in the classes, so how do we do that???

Anyway, I have forgotten much of how we did that and will have to discuss this with my daughter who ran a lot of groups of different types after I moved away from AZ.  Here is what I remember,  at the end we always worked something in.  We stood in a circle and held hands (touching) and did things, sang little dittys, recited affirmations etc., forgotten all what we did and then we had hugs, hug at least 3 people before you leave, etc.  Forgotten the details of how to explain this but you may be getting the idea, so unbeknown to you and the attendees, many will come to the classes for the "touching contact".  They won't tell you that, or even know or be aware of that, so fill that need by how you conduct the group.

End of touching subject for now.


We often wound up at the end with picking one of the people to read some significant memorable little story with a message thing.  Here is a related story.  My daughter had an attendee, she had him read St. Frances prayer at the end of a Singles retreat program that she did for a church sponsored Arizona program.

Anyway, Art was an attendee and she asked him to read the prayer, rest of story, my daughter and Art got married seven years later.

That happened to be a religious sponsored retreat, but this prayer applies and is helpful in a non religious group, and I would use it a couple times a year.  We will try and put together some of those little "wind up" the class story's for you to use and you can find some on your own.

Basically, what you need to do, is sort of emcee this thing and tell them what to do next, or discuss etc., and then you work all these things into the program, and you will run out of time before you know it.  Ours were two hours and we took a ten minute bathroom etc., break in the middle where they also get to talk to each other.

When the class was getting back together, I always told a funny story so they always got back seated promptly so they did not miss the funny story, otherwise they take forever getting seated again, they are so busy talking to each other.

After the class we invited everyone to join the group for coffee, at the nearby restaurant. This was a very important part. We even had people who had missed or already been thru the classes just stop by for coffee with the group. These get togethers often lasted an hour, and they really got to know each other. Many developed significant singles families there.

Early on, I used to panic at the idea I may run out of material before the class run out.  Then someone explained being a guru. You are the guru, so you get to decide what the problem is that is going to be talked about and solved and they get to solve the problem.

Now follow this.  Your problem is, you don't know what the problem is to work on today, but since you are their guru, you just throw the problems out for them to find solutions to. There for today, they get to solve the solution or answer to your problem.

What is the biggest problem you have in adjusting to divorce?

They solve the problem by telling you what the biggest problem is that needs to be talked about.  They will give you a whole list.

Now you have a list, you can not only use this session but you will have enough for a couple of classes.

Hereafter, you know that anytime you have a problem, you don't solve it, since you are the guru, you just throw it out and let them solve it.

Now remember that, and you will never get uptight about running the group.

The guru does not have to solve the problems of the attendees, so you are not there to solve their problems or answer questions.  You are the guru so you let your group solve the problem and get the answers. 

This is how you become the expert.  Let us say you put this problem xyz to 50 people in your group this week.  You hear the responses they have come back with and there will be some good answers or solutions there.  You save the best one or two.

So they are hearing the solutions and learning and you are learning from them.  They are not necessarily learning from you, you are facilitating their finding the solutions.

Three months from now you put the xyz problem out for discussion again.  You get more solutions, and if they did not bring up the good ones you heard last time, you tell them about those previous solutions they may have missed, and add them to your posting of responses for that class.

Three months later you put the problem out again for discussion again.

After a couple of years of this, putting this xyz problem out for solution, believe me you will have gotten back some good ones that they tell you work.  

Now the solutions they came up for you are solutions that they used that from personal experience they can say actually worked for them. 

You have kept track of and noted all the best solutions or answers.  You add those not brought up this time, add them to the solution postings this time, and then 6 months from now, some that where in that class will have tried it, and will be back and tell you whether that worked for them too, next time it comes up for discussion.

Most so called experts would have heard one solution from a college professor.  

You in contrast have gotten answers or many solutions to this problem from listening to thousands of people in the divorce process that found what actually worked in practice, and it worked for many.

It is better for them to have discussed it and came up with their own solutions, and then you can add in some from previous answers that they may not have brought up this time around.

Now if you wrote an article about problem xyz, you would write about what people in the process of divorce adjustment, that people going thru it have found worked.  It will not be something you figured out or are reporting from your college education and told on the subject.  It will be from the field of experience of people in the process of recovering.

For sample of circle and half cirlcle seating where everybody can see everyone else...
go here



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