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I_love_coffee
12-31-2012, 10:10 PM
so my male mc goes support group hopping. Not for himself. He is looking for other people's stories for a book he is writing..... he's an introvert with no friends..... any experiences with support groups? which ones really got people talking/telling their life stories? I was thinking AA or some sort of cancer group?

Drachen Jager
12-31-2012, 11:33 PM
Your author in the book you're writing goes around to different support groups to get story ideas, and learn about support groups.

Why is he so much more adventurous than you? Why don't you go to some support groups and find out? Are you serious about becoming an author?

slhuang
01-01-2013, 12:21 AM
Why is he so much more adventurous than you? Why don't you go to some support groups and find out? Are you serious about becoming an author?

I think this is a little unfair to the OP. I can't speak for why s/he does not want to do personal research, but support groups are supposed to be safe spaces where people with the same experiences can lean on each other. Personally, I would feel unethical going to a support group for research purposes unless I had the consent of the people in the group.

I mean, the MC the author is writing about strikes me as terribly exploitative, not as a positive character.

LJD
01-01-2013, 12:23 AM
I think this is a little unfair to the OP. I can't speak for why s/he does not want to do personal research, but support groups are supposed to be safe spaces where people with the same experiences can lean on each other. Personally, I would feel unethical going to a support group for research purposes unless I had the consent of the people in the group.

I mean, the MC the author is writing about strikes me as terribly exploitative, not as a positive character.

that was my take on it, too.

DancingMaenid
01-01-2013, 08:44 AM
Yes, I agree that it would be exploitative to actually go to support groups under false pretenses, and that many groups may not want someone sitting in for research purposes. Though, even if you couldn't attend meetings, if you wanted to do hands-on research, it might be possible to contact some local groups and see if the person who runs them would be willing to share general information, such as how meetings are structured and how long they run. Some support groups may have public websites that contain some of this info, too.

I have limited support group experience, myself, but I think a lot is going to depend on how formal/"official" the group is, how big it is, and what sort of leadership is in place. A support group that's a chapter of a larger organization may follow a set agenda to some degree. Smaller support groups might vary more.

My only support group experience is an LGBTQ support group I belonged to for a while. The group was small and pretty informal. There were rules about not sharing what people talked about (in terms of specific things people said. Talking about the topics we covered was okay, I think), and not mentioning other members by name outside of the group. Some people talked more than others, but the group's moderator tried to give everyone a chance to say something, and encouraged discussions.

In any case, what your character is doing would be in breech of etiquette and trust in most support groups, and people would probably be very unhappy to learn that he'd been going to their meetings to use their experiences. If this is part of your intention, then cool. If not, it's something to be aware of.

Wiskel
01-01-2013, 03:43 PM
I'm going to assume your MC knows he's on morally dubious ground using groups to meet his own agenda and we're safely in the realms of story planning here.


Any good support group can get people talking, but what they talk about depends on the people forming the group and the facilitator.

The facilitator's job in most is to act as an informal chair. They get the meeting going, help the conversation along if it's difficult, keep an eye on the quieter members of the group and try to make it possible for them to talk if they look like they want to contribute but lack the confidence, and they reign in the conversation if it starts to get abrasive or attacking.

Many groups will have areas of discussion of no interest to your MC.

He might find a cancer support group is very much in the here and now, and side effects and the effect illness and disability have on family life would be common topics. Groups for survivors of sexual abuse might have childhood as a common theme. Drug / alcohol support groups might talk frequently about what's "missing" from someone's life, the loss of friends and family and the process of change.

You'll find a lot of less obvious groups out there though. Some I've come across include support groups for foster carers, groups for people who have lost a parent to suicide, relatives of people with mental illness, families with children on the autistic spectrum.

It's easy to forget that many other things are also support groups. A group of writers meeting to help each other, a group of single parents who meet for cffee every few weeks, weight watchers groups, and internet forums like this one count too.

If you can find one motivated individual and a situation / condition that isn't too rare you'll probably find a support group somewhere in the world or cyberspace.

Craig

Debbie V
01-02-2013, 06:11 AM
I was in a group for couples with fertility issues. The facilitator was a certified social worker who had been through infertility as well. She often led with a broad topic that we took off with each week. The group ran for a few months, but almost all of us still get together periodically. You share your deepest feelings on the issue and your experiences week to week. An outsider would not have been able to fake it.

My Special Ed PTA runs a parent group. One of us facilitates. We go around the room and each person talks about the issues they are facing with their kids. We don't become as close, but we do learn we aren't alone and get the benefit of each others' experience.

I have telephoned oncology nurses and asked for leads to groups for kids and been given one. I contacted the facilitator and she got me in touch with a family. I interviewed two children who lost their father to cancer about their experiences in their support group. This was for my first novel, which never sold. I still feel guilty that I can't write the dedication to the kids as promised. Their group was run by a Social Worker who presented activities - making punching bags, drawing your feelings.

I'm guessing you'll need to narrow down what kind of group you will use and find one online. You could than ask the facilitator about the group. due to confidentiality issues and the sensitive nature of the topics covered in groups, it is unlikely that an outsider would be allowed to sit in for this type of research.

Bufty
01-02-2013, 07:03 PM
Apart from the above observations, an introvert doesn't normally go out of his way to mix with strangers.

I_love_coffee
01-02-2013, 08:23 PM
thank you so far to all of the people who posted, especially to those that understand why I do not want to go to a sg under false pretenses.

drachen: how much time did you spend as an orphan stranded on the celestial seas before you decided you were serious about being an author :)

Maybe I should have posted this question in the Brainstorming section,just to get some help coming up with a list of support groups.

just a bit about me so you all know where I am coming from. I have been a licensed social worker for approx 18 years now. I currently work at a nursing home for children who are medically fragile. I am used to people telling me their whole life story. Many years ago when i was starting out as a social worker I worked in a dialysis unit and I used to facilitate a support group with the senior social worker there. Our groups usually had guest speakers who would provide info and then the second half was more about talking and support. But that was awhile ago and just one type of support group. Just trying to pick brains for other types of experiences.


"Good point Bufty :"Apart from the above observations, an introvert doesn't normally go out of his way to mix with strangers.". hopefully i can write a believable motivation

KTC
01-02-2013, 09:53 PM
I can't see myself being able to relate to a narrator/main character who does this. It strikes me as despicable. Support groups are too sacred to exploit.

onesecondglance
01-02-2013, 10:39 PM
Doesn't the protagonist of Fight Club do something similar at the beginning? (Note: I've not actually read the novel, only seen the film.)

It might be worth reading it to see how another author handled the same subject matter. There could also be some useful details in there. :)

shadowwalker
01-02-2013, 11:04 PM
I've been in several support groups; only one did I attend for research and I talked with the facilitator ahead of time. He spoke to the group members first, and when I arrived, I had to make it a point to introduce myself (as to what my purpose was) so the members would know.

If the MC did that, I think readers would be okay with it - not so sure of the group members, but that would depend entirely on the group. AA and MI groups may be extremely hesitant.

And I agree - an introvert would not go 'group-hopping'. Now, if he did have a friend or acquaintance who belonged to some group, and knew what the MC wanted to do - that might be his "in", not only to get to the group but to have someone to go with.

Karen Junker
01-03-2013, 12:24 AM
I attend 12 step groups as a member (for over 23 years) and there are some meetings which state in the meeting schedule that they are open meetings (some are for members only) and I have seen dozens of researchers introduce themselves at such meetings and state what information they're looking for. It happens all the time. It would only be inappropriate if it were a closed meeting and the person didn't admit that they are not a member.

rosehips
01-03-2013, 02:05 AM
And I agree - an introvert would not go 'group-hopping'.

Speaking as an introvert, I disagree. There's a difference between being an introvert and having social anxiety disorder, after all. I do all sorts of things professionally (I am a teacher) I wouldn't do for fun, because I'm not a naturally social person. I'm perfectly capable of overcoming that in order to speak in front of crowds, socialize with parents at PTSA functions, etc., however.

Also, as to willingness of the mc to exploit support groups, I think it's jumping the gun to dismiss him as despicable and unlikeable so quickly. I've just been reading Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard novels, and the mcs do some things that in real life I would find despicable, and yet I like them very much. It's all about context and how you present the character, imo.