© Copyright Nexus Groups, 1 Dec 2005. All Rights Reserved.
May be copied with acknowledgement firstly by Members of Wellnet for their protection, and secondly by non profit self-help and mutual-help groups.
Nexus Groups is a not-for-profit community-based entity registered in Sydney, Australia in 1971. Along with the Australian Wellness Association (Inc), a body incorporated in Victoria in 2002), Nexus Groups is supporting the evolving of WELLNET.
The wisdom on the Laceweb website has been drawn from the grassroots people of the East Asia Oceania Australasia Region. Consistent with their way, this wisdom is freely available on this Wellnet Internet site.
A BRIEF OUTLINE
WELLNET is resonant with Nexus Groups and Connexion both Self-Help Groups formed in the 1960s in Sydney NSW.
Wellnet is a community-based network evolving and supporting friendly community nurturing of social, emotional and psychological wellness.
Evolving in Victoria, Australia and spreading to the Australia Top End, WELLNET is now linking and supporting nurturers throughout East Asia, Oceania and Australasia. People yearning for wellness and those able to share caring support are welcome.
WELLNET is also a group of people experiencing social, emotional, and or psychological crisis who are supporting and nurturing each other in mutual-help. These are people who may be:
In Victoria, Workcover or Transport Accident Commission claimants with ongoing and unmet social, emotional and or psychological needs
Consumers of health, allied health, and welfare services
Survivors of man-made and natural disasters,
People experienced in supporting others to be able to engage in social, emotional, and psychological mutual-help
Grassroots natural nurturers in the region
Others in social, emotional and/or psychological crisis
WELLNET attends to, recognises, supports and nurtures social, emotional, and psychological aspects towards wellbeing.
WELLNET is resonant with Fraser House, the first therapeutic community in Australia set up in 1959 in North Ryde Hospital on the Sydney North Shore. Fraser House was a primary influence in setting up peer-run psychological, social and emotional mutual-help groups in Australia.
WELLNET is also resonant with the social, emotional, and psychological mutual-help group called Nexus Groups (which later became Connexion). These are both not-for-profit charities that were evolved by ex-Fraser House people. Nexus Groups was registered in October 1971 in NSW. WELLNET’S Constitution is modelled on Nexus Groups’ Constitution.
Some of us in WELLNET are or have been claimants/patients; some of us have worked with such persons; some of us have been both.
We recognize that a human being in emotional, psychological and/or social crisis may need the help of his or her fellow humans. We recognise that we have resources and capacity to support ourselves, and each other towards wellness.
Similar to Victorian Workcover’s Clinical Framework, WELLNET operates on the bio-psychosocial paradigm. Wellnet way recognises the person in their fullness including the social emotional and psychological.
Seeing WELLNET as a mutual-help organization, we have formed ourselves into a collective to:
Come to know ourselves and each other
Form support and friendship networks
Support each other in reconnecting with and engaging in life activities
Increase our understanding of psychological/social/emotional crisis and human relationships
Explore how we can transform to wellness
Support each other in living with and reducing pain in all of its forms.
There are some professional workers and ex-professionals helping WELLNET who have valuable experience and knowledge to bring to use. They work according to the WELLNET philosophy where the professional is in a co-caring relation with the client. WELLNET draws its philosophy, frames of reference, process, and values from Fraser House (refer the ‘WELLNET Framework’ in the third section of this document).
People in social/emotional/psychological distress often withdraw and disconnect from life and activity as a defence, and also often have their gifts and possible contribution negated by self and others. WELLNET supports such people reconnect with life and activity through supporting them tapping their social/emotional/ psychological resources and gifts and using their contribution. Anyone who agrees with our aims is welcome to join us in putting them into practice.
WHAT IS WELLNET DOING?
Drawing on our philosophy of mutual respect and mutual support towards wellness, we of WELLNET are starting to work in the following areas:
Evolving and sustaining local social emotional and psychological mutual-help support networking
Building up a network of people in the community who can lend support to people in social emotional and/or psychological crisis
Evolving local places where people can connect together connected to place
Supporting each other in reconnecting with and engaging in life activities
Providing a phone service where we can be called for support, information or a sympathetic ear
Having an office open 6 days a week where people can drop in and talk
Organizing people willing to visit any in social emotional and/or psychological crisis at any time
Researching and informing people about social emotional and/or psychological crisis
Contacting professional service providers who may want to enter into patient co-care relationships where WELLNET provides social emotional and/or psychological support through self-help and mutual-help processes
Providing training to professional and other members of WELLNET in WELLNET Process
Exploring the possibility of having WELLNET and professional members of WELLNET recognised as authorized Workcover Providers
Contacting sympathetic individuals and organizations who can be of use to people who come to WELLNET
Exploring the possibility of obtaining operating and maintaining mini-buses for mobile groups, emergency groups and home visits on the Fraser House model
Providing a WELLNET magazine and internet site for information and education
Raising the necessary funds to finance the above work, the organization was registered as a charity in (date)
CONSTITUTION OF WELLNET
This abbreviated Constitution is adapted from Nexus Group’s Constitution. A full constitution is available containing the full set of administrative clauses.
The name of the organization shall be WELLNET.
All WELLNET members may extend the help of WELLNET to any person in need of help
WELLNET Members may remain completely anonymous or use first names only if they desire to do so
No member will aid or abet any other member in any crime or act of anti-social behaviour
Any member arriving at meetings drunk or drugged may, on a group decision, be expelled from the meeting until sober
All members must endeavour to be at meetings on time so as not to disrupt the group once it is in progress
People without close relatives or friends may on group decision, become members, but the group's aim is to involve families and family-friendship networks
Any member who does anything considered detrimental to the group or its individual members may on group decision be banned entirely from the group, and can apply for re-admittance after no less than 3 months
Visitors to group meetings may only attend three meetings before applying for membership
Subscriptions for membership or WELLNET newsletter will be set by the Committee as necessary, now at $XX.00 annually.
4. OFFICE BEARERS
The office-bearers shall consist of a President, Secretary, Treasurer and such other officers as shall be decided by the members of the Organization at the Annual General Meeting. The office-bearers and the other members of Executive Committee shall be elected annually at the Annual General Meeting. Any casual vacancy occurring among the office-bearers may be filled by the Committee, and the person so appointed to fill such vacancy shall hold office for the unexpired term of the member so replaced.
Professional people i.e. Doctors, Psychologists, Sociologists, Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Psychiatrists, Lawyers, Priests, Politicians, and the like will not be eligible for election to the Executive (Management) Committee, but may be referred to the Honorary Advisory Resources Committee. Office-bearers and Executive Committee members will be elected only from within the general WELLNET membership and this sub-clause may not be altered.
To be elected to the Executive Committee a person has to be a financial member of WELLNET and must be nominated by the group which they have been attending.
5. PROCEEDINGS OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
The Executive Committee's function is to maintain lines of communication with all people and bodies working in the field of social emotional and psychological well-being from within a bio-psychosocial paradigm so that WELLNET people may have first-hand information on developments in this field, and to manage the business administration and to set policy for the WELLNET Organization – always within the ‘WELLNET Framework’.
At meetings of Members a quorum shall consist of five (5) members, and at an Executive Committee Meeting shall consist of three (3) members. If a quorum is not present within half an hour of the time set down for a meeting to commence, then the meeting shall be adjourned to the same time and place seven days later or to a place and to a time within one month of the date of such meeting, to be determined thereat. If at such adjourned meeting a quorum is not present, then those members attending shall be deemed to be a quorum, provided the number of such members is not less than three.
11. PROCEEDINGS AT WELLNET GROUP MEETINGS
WELLNET run two types of member meetings - Big Group (19 –180) and Small group (up to 18 people). When more than 18 people want to attend Small Group their numbers may be split between two or more Small Groups. Each meeting will be of one-hour duration followed by a 30-minute supper and general discussion– a total one and a half hours. Strict time keeping is adhered to so that meetings do not keep extending in length.
A group Chairperson will be elected by the group at each meeting to chair the next meeting in accordance with the ‘WELLNET Framework’.
A group chairperson's duty is to see that as many members as possible have a chance to discuss their concerns, unless in the chairperson's opinion there is an urgent or critical situation that the group wishes to deal with; also a chairperson must check any side conversation which may disrupt the group, and make sure that a chairperson is elected for the following week. A chairperson may after warning a member, order him or her from the group for that meeting only.
All personal problems discussed at group meetings will remain strictly confidential and must not be discussed outside group meetings. Any person inquiring of a member may be invited to attend a group meeting and state their reasons for inquiring.
All WELLNET meetings end with a short process review in accordance with ‘WELLNET Framework’.
12. GROUP LEADERS, ADMINISTRATIVE MEMBERS OR COMMITTEES
Each local group shall elect their own group leader, administrative member or committee, whose function is to maintain lines of communication with the Executive Committee and to make sure a different group chairperson is elected each week at his or her local group.
13. NOTICE OF MEETINGS
Big Group and Small Group Meetings will be held weekly wherever possible. Where these meetings are held consecutively the half hour supper and discussion takes place between the meetings. Executive Committee meetings will be convened at the discretion of the President or Secretary.
14. ASSESSMENT OF MEMBERS
Suitably qualified members of WELLNET may carry out the following standardised outcomes measurement of members with their consent:
Life participation restrictions on a wellness continuum
Subject to the measured person’s consent and direction these measurements may be passed on to professional care providers and to Workcover, the Transport Accident Commission, Health Insurance bodies and other bodies.
The Executive Committee shall cause minutes to be made:
of all appointments of office-bearers and members of the Committee.
of the names of members of the Committee, general members and visitors present at all meetings of the Organization and of the Committee
of all proceedings at all meetings of the Organization and of the Committee.
Minutes shall be signed by the Chairperson of the meeting at which the proceedings were held or by the Chairperson of the next succeeding meeting.
Minutes need not be taken of Big Group and Small Group.
20. HONORARY ADVISORY OR RESOURCES COMMITTEE
The Honorary Advisory or Resources Committee shall consist of those qualified and professional people who will lend their support to WELLNET groups and advise on matters of group development and therapeutic values consistent with the ‘WELLNET Framework ‘.
No member of the group will approach any member of the Advisory or Resources Committee other than through their Executive Committee.
This Framework has been adapted from a Handbook for Staff written by the patients and outpatients at Fraser House in 1963 in Sydney NSW.
WELLNET members value sustained humane caring, nurturing and respecting firstly, of each other in our cultural and spiritual diversity, and secondly, of all environments and life forms.
WELLNET GROUP MEETINGS
The processes used in running WELLNET group meetings are principally our own as adapted from group processes evolved at Fraser House, a pioneering Therapeutic Community in the 1960’s in North Ryde Hospital, Sydney. These processes have evolved through testing and retesting of basic theories by adoption and ‘trimming’ of those found successful by some group leaders, and by constant discussion and evaluation of the issues these community groups pose.
The meetings held at WELLNET are of two main types, Big Group and Small Group. There are three types of Big Group each with a different function:
Transforming towards wellness,
Evolving family-friend networks and social support networks, and support to re-engage in life activities
An administrative meeting exploring social and community self-governance and control.
In a cycle, Big Groups rotate twice through the types one and two, and then the fifth Big Group in the cycle is on the third function.
Note that every supper provides scope for type two action, that is, evolving family-friend networks and social support networks as well as support to re-engage in life activities.
In WELLNET, ‘Family/friend networks’ is the focus of transformation.
Small Groups alternate between types one and two above. Small Groups have up to 18 people, and if numbers exceed 18, members are allocated to Small Groups prior to commencement. Where numbers permit, these allocations are made according to the following criteria by rotation:
age and sex
age and marital status
There may be intergenerational groups consisting of patients and their families as well as Small Groups made up of ‘withdrawn’ members. There may be unstructured groups and special groups held for particular groups of people for various reasons, e.g., they may be planned and scheduled for certain times during the day or night when a person’s relatives arrive from the country. Or they may be spontaneous, when a relative arrives unexpectedly. Or they may be held as and when a particular person, or person’s family becomes psychologically, socially and/or emotionally disturbed over some crisis that arises. Professional members are dispersed in the Groups.
THE GROUP LEADER ROLE IN SMALL GROUP
Small Groups have a leader and one or two observers appointed. The observer role is outlined shortly.
WELLNET also has people experienced in running Big Groups within Fraser House protocols available as trainers in chairing WELLNET meetings.
When WELLNET is evolving in a particular locality, chairpersons may be professional people if they are available. After a time other WELLNET members are supported to carry out the chairperson role within Small and Big Groups. The intention is to have professional people withdraw from the Chairpersons role so that Groups are led by member’s peers.
The first essential in taking a group is to see it as a meeting, and like all meetings, there is a need for a chairperson to conduct affairs and keep issues to the point.
The initial function of the chairperson is to see that the group functions as a group. It may be necessary for the Chairperson to be quite directive in order to achieve this in some groups, but on the other hand it may just happen anyway even if the Chairperson adopts a completely passive and wordless role. How active or passive, directive or non-directive the chairperson is, or chooses to be, may be influenced by many things – e.g., the attitude or mood of the group itself and tensions built up prior to and during its running; the type of group and purpose, or the themes introduced during the group. The chairperson’s own personality is a basic factor that determines handling, and this may vary from day to day depending on the chairperson’s mood, and also on her/his attitude to the type of group or even some of the people contained in it.
While one might be influenced to some extent by the way certain chairpersons conduct the group, it is inadvisable and unwise, and indeed well nigh impossible for one chairperson to copy another, for the previously stated reason that the chairperson’s own personality is a basic factor in determining the handling of groups. So that even if one decided on a particular chairperson as ones ‘idol’, one should not attempt to emulate too closely. Because of this ‘personality’ factor and other rather intangible factors, there are not many rigid processes that can be generalized to apply to all groups, but the following can be applied to most:
Prior to meetings Members are invited to fill out what are called ‘Daysheets’ that are one quarter of an A4 sheet with a concise statement of social emotional and psychological issues in their lives. Summaries of these are read at the start of Therapy Big Groups and at the end of Administrative Big Groups. This is followed by a consideration of common themes that have emerged in the daysheet. Daysheet themes are also used in Small Groups. Themes that are conducive to coherence in the group and that resonate with as many people as possible are preferred.
If a theme is introduced, and it is considered to be not too superficial or inappropriate, the group should pay some attention to it, and not change the theme to another without good reason. If an attempt to change the theme is made, it may be done deliberately by a person for a fairly obvious reason (such as a personality clash with someone involved in the previous theme), or a less obvious reason such as an unconscious identification and a consequent wish to avoid the theme. It may also be done through plain insensitivity on the part of the person making the attempt at the change. There are many reasons for these moves, and it is the chairperson’s role to decide on the dynamics of the situations and then to make use of them by feeding them straight back into the group at the time, and if necessary, to make an interpretation of the dynamics operating in the events and occurrences.
It is also in the province of the chairperson to direct the group away from superficial themes or from discussing themes in a superficial manner. In general, the chairperson should make use of what is going on in each particular group at the time it is taking place. The chairperson has first to be able to recognize what is going on and she or he can only do this through observation and experience. The way the chairperson uses the things that are going on within the group depends to a large extent on the chairperson – again the personality factor. Even chairpersons are inexperienced, and perhaps not very confident, they should keep in mind that they bring something very valuable to the group – something which no one else can do in the same way – the sum total of the chairperson’s own unique life experience. When used with confidence, this is a very powerful force that all chairpersons have at their disposal.
The chairperson fosters as appropriate to context what has been called ‘experiential real-play’ (in contrast to role play) allowing participants to personally experience relating in functional ways in everyday life.
INTERACTION AND INTEREST
If most of the people in the Group are involved in interaction, typically they are also interested. However, interest can be very high even though there is not much interaction. Look at their faces, their feet, their hands, their respiration, the way they sit, and it will be known if they are interested or not. Interaction may not be high if the chairperson has found it necessary to be active or directive. This sometimes must be the case.
There will usually be varying amounts of tension as the group progresses, both from the group as a whole, and from individual members. Silences usually build up while tension is mounting, and the best way to use this tension is not to break these silences; let the members of the group do it as they will when they can no longer stand the tension – and then see what is released with the tension and make use of it.
The mood of a group is sometimes sustained throughout, but more often it changes, ranging through many social, emotional and psychological states, and frequently, depending to some extent on the:
Build up and release of tension
Themes discussed and the manner of the discussion
Interaction and the interest, and
Cross-identification of those who interact
The role adopted by the chairperson is also important here. Once again, the emotions that set the mood for the group are used as transforming possibilities.
WELLNET BIG GROUPS
Whereas much has been achieved over the years in the way of explanation and handling of individual and small group difficulties, little is to hand to clarify the acknowledged psychological, social and emotional forces and the group process of large community groups. Understandings of behaviour of crowds and audiences apply to the Big Groups in particular.
The setting for Big Group (up to 180 people) is a large space in which clear speaking is adequate. Seating, if space allows, is in a circle or if indoors, typically has two rows at the sides and one end, with a single row at the end nearest the entrance door. The group leader (chairperson) usually sits in the centre of this row, but is free to move according to his or her dictates. All of the chairs face centrally so that, as much as possible, everyone is in view and speakers can face each other. But principally the people are shoulder-to-shoulder as in an audience as well as being members of a single crowd.
Two skilled people observe and record the meeting from a detached point behind the back row noting, themes, values, tension, mood and interaction and the modes of interacting by the chairperson. If no skilled people are available people are assigned to do the task with support so they do learn to be effective process observers.
Other more experienced members and professional members intersperse themselves among the attendees. The doorway is left clear for latecomers. A portion of a row is reserved here to lessen the interruption made by latecomers.
As introduced above, it has become traditional that the four ‘therapeutic’ Big Groups (transforming towards wellness) commence with a reading of the ‘WELLNET Daysheets by one of the attendees. These can be filled out on the day up to five minutes before starting time of the Big Group. On the fifth meeting this reading of the Wellnet Daysheets is deferred till after the various committee reports and elections. In essence these Wellnet Daysheets serve the purpose of an informal WELLNET newspaper and comprises all manner of notifications about personal experience.
Usually the chairperson then allows the group to enter into spontaneous ‘free floating’ discussion until a general interconnecting theme is apparent. This may then be pursued with promptings towards interaction between different generations or social classes or psychiatric opposites – or perhaps to tie in together for mutual support those with similar difficulties, personally or because of psychological, social and/or emotional family or life-crisis situation.
At times the focus might fall on one particular patient or family to highlight a special need, and it is quite common for sub-groups or cliques to merit attention. These latter are constantly forming, breaking and re-forming, and the chairperson much of the time finds it impossible to be aware of these changes and undercurrents. The interspersing of experienced/professional members throughout does much to obviate this as these moves can be discussed later in the reporting segment, or if urgent, brought to the attention in the group by the experienced/professional member aware of the moves. Most meetings see the group as a whole reacting much like an audience to a few main actors. This can be constructive as an insight-gaining process as the personal, intra and inter-family or sub-group projections are portrayed and leadership values rise or fall. Members are audience to others change-work.
At other times when matters affecting the internal security of the community arise or pressures are brought to bear from outside sources, interpersonal differences are dropped for combined feeling and action, and the Unit becomes united as its projection against threat is shown. So the audience-type reaction displaces to behaviour more attributable to that of a crowd. When these crowd-like emotional forces move the whole community, the opportunity is presented to harness these towards a therapeutic goal that may do more in a single hour towards wellness transformation for more people than many weeks of other change work.
When all are working well together in the meeting, a peak of enthusiasm is reached at times when everyone sees almost any move at all as being gainful. New actions are embarked upon with an eagerness that is almost inspired and success is a certainty. Whereas, perhaps a month earlier the same move would have met an equally certain failure. All improvements in expanded transformative action have been adopted at such times.
The recognition and use of these crowd feelings by the chairperson are usually intuitive. The leader must ‘feel’ these and employ them – they are of the greatest value when utilized therapeutically towards corrective emotional experience. This can be rated as either an individual, a family, the whole group, or any combination of these being helped in this direction.
Both Big and Small Meetings allow ten minutes at the end for a report by the two official observers, and comment by members present, including the chairperson who took the group. Points assessed are:
Value and interaction
Interaction processes used
From these reviews comes much of the knowledge needed. At the moment this seems by no means exhaustive. The aim must be always to look at the WELLNET community in the ‘BIG’ – as a whole and this certainly is no easy matter.
FURTHER THEORY AND EXAMPLE
The WELLNET experience is that there is an inherent movement towards change to wellness resulting from the psychological, social and emotional contact of people with each other on different issues. This change is a therapeutic change if the atmosphere is one of mutual support, respect for the worthwhileness of each person, and discipline where necessary.
WELLNET attempts to reproduce normal life in many ways, particularly in allowing the development of emotional storms (as they occur in families) and in not enforcing overly good behaviour, as is the usual hospital pattern. Like normal life too, there are limits and so effective discipline is a major part of the process, especially for those with antisocial or hostile problems.
The process of change for the disturbed patient and family may be described in many ways. One is that WELLNET attempts to provide emotionally corrective experiences in the conflict area. This can be seen in the spreading of a theme within a group or in the contagion of feeling within the meeting that always most deeply affects those with the issues in the area of conflict that set off the emotion.
Success for a chairperson is now known to depend very much on how much the patient realizes that the chairperson cares. This cannot be acted by the chairperson – and here lies the importance of learning to relax and be oneself and express oneself in the therapeutic situation
Caring for the patient does not mean loving and accepting everything she/he does. You don’t care for someone if you let them wreck themselves or harm others. It means coming to see and feel that the person is a person worth helping and changing. It means to accept the person, but reject their deviant issues (e.g., love a depressed person, but NOT their depression – want to change their depression). Particularly it means rejecting abnormal behaviour, particularly that which is harmful to others. So here caring will mean love and discipline.
There are some points that help in the WELLNET approach to whole families in Group contexts:
Aim to help the whole family
Help them not to push the most deviant member down when they are under tension
Encourage parents of the presenting person to talk about their difficulties with their own parents, and each other
If the presenting person has improved more than the rest of the family, suggest they forget that person’s issues and talk about their own
Make sure the different generations in the family attend different small groups much of the time – the therapeutic cleavering of dysfunctional networks
The overt symptoms in the presenting person usually indicate the key conflict for all the family
Suggest family members who insist they have no issues that you would like them to be more selfish and talk about themselves anyway
Don’t reject the parents because of what you see they have done to their child – find out what she/he has done to them
No parent ever purposefully wrecks his or her child. They should not be blamed for a tragedy they were caught up in
Don’t adopt any of the above processes unless you feel it
The emotional comfort and satisfaction of WELLNET is one of the most significant features. The numerous meetings aim to foster this. Specifically, their role is to prevent the development of covert, hidden conflict between members about other members. Such conflicts are proven to result in overt person disturbance.
Experienced members remain the most powerful members of a therapeutic community and their welfare and comfort are of paramount importance.