Group facilitation types_of_groups

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  • Group Facilitation Types of GroupsPar t 1

    Definition: Facilitation is defined as to make something easier.

    Within a group setting, facilitation is the process of assisting a group to realize its common goals, visions, and mission. In order to achieve these aims a facilitator needs to be effective as a manager, know how to capitalize on the talents and diverse ideas of the group members, and be culturally competent.

    The following factors shape how a group is facilitated:

    (1) type of group (e.g., support groups), (2) the use of intentional dialogue, and (3) knowing how to work with challenging participants, (e.g., dominator, blocker).

    We will address each of these topics in upcoming bulletins. This one will focus on the first topic, different types of groups.

    Different Types of GroupsA good facilitator is familiar with different types of group dynamics. Different groups require different skill set and are usually determined by intervention type, curricula, subject matter, and/or purpose. There are four basic types of groups: Support Groups, Information Presentation Group, Decision-making Groups, and Skills-building Groups/Workshops. Some interventions, like Safety Counts, might include more than one type of group.

    A. Participant Driven

    These types of groups provide participants with emotional support in overcoming obstacles or achieving goals. Exam-ples of support groups include Safety Counts, Healthy Rela-tionships, coming-out groups, grief and loss, and sexual assault survivors.

    B. Information Presentation Groups

    These types of groups aim to provide participants with new information on topics that concern them. Examples of infor-mation presentation groups include Safety Counts, where participants are given information about HIV/HVC in their communities, health insurance enrollment sessions, and a presentation on new immigration policies.

    C. Decision-making Groups

    These groups are formed to make decisions on various issues. Examples of decision-making groups include Mpowerment core group, management team, and committees, e.g., commu-nity planning groups, Board of Directors.

    D. Skills-building Groups/Workshops

    These types of groups provide participants with skills, e.g., condom use, negotiation skills, how to develop a recruit-ment plan. Examples of skills-building groups/workshops include SISTA, VOICES, evaluation training, and recruitment training.

  • Some Facilitation SkillsDifferent types of groups may require some of the following facilitation skills:

    A. Asking gently inquisitive, open-ended questions that cannot be answered with yes or no: (How did you react? Instead of Were you angry?)

    B. Reflecting the emotional content of what is being said: You are sad when your parents dont participate in your school activities.

    C. Echoing repeating a word or phrase that needs clarification: Afraid?

    D. Summarizing both factual and emotional content: Today we have looked at some frightening things that could happen, such as a shooting, and learned how to make them less scary by attending a family debriefing.

    E. Using respectful confrontation: I can see you are upset about this, but we do need to move on. Lets talk after the group is over.

    F. Sticking to simple speech: comments that are clear, direct, timely and brief

    Moreover, the type of facilitation employed will depend on how much participants partake in the process.

    The graph below shows us a range of groups with different levels of client engagement, from low participation to highly participatory.

    Types of Facilitation & Continuum of Participation

    As this graph shows, the level of participation varies from group to group. On the one extreme are lectures, which have little to no participation, and on the other extreme we have participant-led support groups, in which as many people as possible contribute to the discussion. When you plan a group you must decide what level of participa-tion is needed for clients and what method of delivery suits the content you wish to cover.

    As we have seen, to facilitate means to make something easier, and in this case, group facilitation is about helping a group of people achieve a common goal, vision, or mission. Good facilitation skills are invaluable to prevention programs like Mpowerment and Safety Counts. Facilitating groups requires a variety of skills and knowledge, e.g., types of groups, level of participation, good listening skills. We will address these in the upcoming bulletins. Be on the look out for bulletins on these topics: the use of intentional dialogue and knowing how to work with challenging participants.

    Please feel free to contact us if you have suggestions on the topic of Group Facilitation.

    AIDS Project Los Angeles conducts training on group facilitation. For a complete list of trainings and other services offered, please visit our website, or email

    Highly Didactic, Low Participation

    Highly Participatory, Participants Facilitate

    LectureCo-Facilitated Presentation

    with questions and answers

    Seminar Style Discussion


    work meetingParticipant-led support group