2. Redirect advice giving.
Groups can often turn into advice-giving sessions. The problem with giving advice is that it focuses group members on the problems and struggles of other group members, rather than doing their own work. In order to help group members take ownership of their issues, redirect advice-giving behaviors and encourage group members to focus on doing their own work.
3. Practice owning feelings.
One simple way to help group members practice taking ownership is to do a check-in exercise on identifying and owning feelings. At the beginning of the session, each group member can share what they are feeling—we use the acronym SASHET for sad, angry, scared, happy, excited, and tender—and then they give a brief, one-minute context around that feeling. Owning feelings can help group members identify deeper issues and needs. It can also help group members get into the habit of owning their struggles. Group members begin to understand they are responsible for their feelings—no one “makes” them feel something, or is culpable for how they are feeling.
4. Practice good communication skills.
Helping group members use good communication skills can also set them up to own their problems and struggles. For example, it is important to use “I” statements—“I feel angry,” versus “She made me feel angry.” If group members don’t use “I” statements (e.g., “You know how you feel sad when,” or, “We are so frustrated about”), redirect them to use “I” statements, as it can help them take ownership of their thoughts and feelings.
5. Model ownership.
If group members are struggling to take ownership of their problems, it can be helpful to model ownership as the group leader. Speed of the leader, speed of the team. Make sure you think about how the material you’re working through in group applies to your own life, so you have an example to share. When modeling ownership, keep two principles in mind. First, be brief—you don’t want group members to go on and on, so be brief when you model ownership. Second, be purposeful—the purpose is to model ownership for group members, not to do your own work. You need your own group for that.
6. Teach ownership.
It can be helpful to do a brief teaching and discussion about the importance of ownership. Make the connection explicit between taking ownership and having power to change a situation. It might seem counterintuitive to the group member, but explain that if the cause of the problem is internal—in other words, if it really is their fault—that’s actually a good thing, because they have the power to change their own life. If the cause of the problem is truly external and outside of their control, then they should honestly acknowledge they may be somewhat powerless to change those external factors, and come up with other solutions to navigate the situation.