9 Ways to Help Group Members Take Ownership of Problems

9 Ways to Help Group Members Take Ownership of Problems

The struggle is real—and we have to own it if we want to change.
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7. Focus on your own business.

Byron Katie writes about three kinds of business in Loving What Is. First, my business involves everything under my control—my thoughts, feelings, and actions. Second, other people’s business involves everything under someone else’s control—for example, my spouse’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Third, God’s business involves everything outside of my control and someone else’s control—that is, when I am going to die, or the path of an impending hurricane. As much as possible, help group members focus on their own business. It is impossible to change someone else, but we have great power and potential to change ourselves.

8. Ask a laddering question.

Laddering is a helpful strategy to help group members take ownership of their problems. It involves asking the simple question, “How is that a problem for you?” to redirect the group member to do their own work. For example, if a group member shared his spouse has been distant lately, the leader could ask, “How is that a problem for you?” This laddering question might help redirect him toward his own work. He might respond he doesn’t feel as if he is worthy of his wife’s time and attention, or that he feels powerless to ask his wife for what he needs—which is something he might work on in group.

9. Help group members own their judgments.

Helping group members own their judgments is another way to redirect them to take more ownership. When a group member has a lot of “energy” about an issue and makes a judgment, it often has something to do with themselves. It might be projection—possibly, they struggle with a similar battle. It may have to do with unresolved pain—maybe they have been hurt in a similar way in the past. Either way, by helping group members own their judgments, you can redirect them to do their own work. For example, if a group member judges her boss for being too critical, try redirecting her to think about how the judgment might have something to do with her—perhaps she struggles with being critical, or has some unresolved pain around being criticized.

After practicing these steps, be sure to reflect and assess any observable changes in the group. Try to find concrete examples of how group members are taking ownership of their problems and issues, and congratulate them on their progress. Lastly, ask yourself what one step you can take this week to help group members take ownership of their struggles.

Joshua N. Hook is an associate professor of psychology at the University of North Texas, and a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of Texas. He is the co-author of Helping Groups Heal: Leading Small Groups in the Process of Transformation, and he blogs regularly at www.JoshuaNHook.com. Joshua lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife Jenn, and attends Highland Park United Methodist Church. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on the Chicago Bears and trying not to get injured doing CrossFit. This article was made possible by a generous grant from the Templeton Foundation.


1 Sedikides, C., & Gregg, A. P. (2008). Self-enhancement: Food for thought. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 102-116.

2 Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological Bulletin, 103, 193-210.

3 Mezulis, A. H., Abramson, L. Y., Hyde, J. S., & Hankin, B. L. (2004). Is there a universal positivity bias in attributions? A meta-analytic review of individual, developmental, and cultural differences in the self-serving attributional bias. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 711-747.

4 Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 80, 1-28.

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