A facilitated group is the most powerful way to bring about behaviour change in its members. Such groups tend to be informal and develop their own norms and rules. They can meet for extended periods.
The leader does not have to be an acknowledged expert but should know how to manage a group. A democratic leadership style is more effective and is often called facilitation, which means “making things easy”. The facilitator ensures that everybody feels that they are part of the group and has the chance to participate. At the point when each participant feels that they are important and that the group is important, behaviour change may develop in a real and sustainable way.
For this kind of informal group, size is important. For the group to take on its own identity, everybody must know everybody else. For this to happen the group should ideally have around 12 members. If the group is too small – that is, below eight members – it can forget what its task is and just become a friendship group.
Normally the group can suggest its own rules and members will generally mention things like punctuality and attendance. Confidentiality needs to be stressed if the group is to progress; members must agree not to disclose embarrassing details about others. Or a group can agree that things can be talked about outside the group, but nobody can be identified.
Gender mix should depend on the group task. If the task of the group is to provide emotional support to victims of rape, it is preferable to have an all-female group with any male rape victims provided for separately. When it comes to the issue of changing heterosexual sexual behaviour, it is probably preferable to have a mixed group, since both genders usually need a better understanding of the other. If it is all females then they tend to reinforce stereotyped values like “Isn’t it terrible the way men behave – they’re all the same”.
In informal groups the facilitator should sit with the other members; sitting in a circle is sometimes the most appropriate. Rooms should be quiet and free of interruptions. Nurse facilitators should probably change out of uniform into ordinary clothes.