Resources for starting a meditation and behavioral health support group?

Balancing family life and the Dhamma, in pursuit of a happy lay life.
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ngoonera
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:02 pm

Resources for starting a meditation and behavioral health support group?

Post by ngoonera »

I’m interested in starting a local, in-person meditation and behavioral health support group. As part of this effort, I’m trying to assemble resources that can help to ensure that the group is run in a manner that is ethical, safe and protects privacy. I wanted to reach out to the Dhamma Wheel community to ask if you have any suggestions for guides, instructional material, etc.? I've also posted to Discuss&Discover. I come from a healthcare background, so I am very comfortable working in this space (I’ve taken care of patients who have severe, active mental health issues including suicide attempts, hallucination, significant cognitive impairments, etc.), but I know that a lot has already been prepared by others.

While searching through Dhammawheel, I came across a mention of the Buddhist Gem Fellowship (https://bgf.org.my/about-bgf/bgf-counse ... d-welfare/) and have sent them an email asking if they had any material to share.

Goal: To discuss applied meditation practice and share lived experiences while finding support in a safe and tolerant space. We’ll begin with a 20 minute sitting meditation, then transition to a discussion/support group for 40-60 minutes. Participants can share challenges they’ve experienced, offer advice, and discuss application of mindfulness strategies, with an emphasis on incorporating practical guidance from the suttas.

Resources:

1. Code of conduct for attendees: Is anyone aware of a code of conduct for a support group like this? Core principles would include respect for privacy, and non-judgemental comments. I’ll likely ask everyone to turn off their smartphones, and we can’t do this by Zoom since it is not privacy-compliant. We will likely need to include a legal disclaimer and links to mental health support options as well.

2. Practice Guide for Participants/Group Leader: I searched Discuss&Discover and found a helpful post about running a meditation group (Running a meditation group | Sujato’s Blog ) It mentions having a practice guide and I was wondering if one was ever created.

3. Group leader certification: This same website mentions that there is a risk that untrained individuals could run these groups. I see that there are several fee-for-service mindfulness training programs, typically costing $3000-$8000 and I know of a hospice chaplain at my hospital who has signed up for one. Are there any options for training that are not cost-prohibitive? Most likely not, but I thought I would ask in case someone else knows.

4. Books: There is a growing interest in recognizing the negative side-effects of meditation, including handling distressing thoughts from past trauma (e.g. Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing by David A. Treleaven and Willoughby Britton). I think that a practice emphasis on mindfulness of breathing (MN118) and metta meditation can help to mitigate some of these concerns, but it is important to be aware that issues may arise and a support group that meets regularly could help to provide a safe environment to discuss them on an ongoing basis. There is also a very large literature on Buddhist Psychology and I’m planning to read “Buddhist Psychology and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: A Clinician’s Guide” by Dennis Tirch, Laura R. Silberstein-Tirch as a start.

5. Recommended suttas: I was hoping to assemble a collection of short, practical suttas as a reference. I think that MN19 (Two Kinds of Thought), MN20 (How to Stop Thinking) and MN118 (Mindfulness of Breathing) would be helpful as a start. Do you have any other suggestions?

I hope that I can assemble something and then post it after having had a chance to iterate it and get feedback. Thank you for any suggestions you may have.
dharmacorps
Posts: 1710
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:33 pm

Re: Resources for starting a meditation and behavioral health support group?

Post by dharmacorps »

This sounds very close to MBSR by Jon Kabat Zinn which is kind of tailor made for the health care and mental health environment. If you add overtly religious Buddhist teachings, that would be different though.

Some thoughts--if you make rules, prepare to have to enforce them. Also, if you yourself plan on being the "teacher", watch out for the minefield of ethical quandries that non-ordained (and non-monastery trained) teachers face. Your medical training won't help you there.
ngoonera
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:02 pm

Re: Resources for starting a meditation and behavioral health support group?

Post by ngoonera »

Thank you for your helpful reply. Yes, I am hoping to incorporate suttas or guidance from them. You mention "ethical quandries" -- I agree those can be a concern and am trying to prepare for them in advance. Could you provide a list of examples? Possible scenarioes include:
-Someone who voices suicidal ideation->they should be referred to a suicide prevention line. Whether they make the call or not is not my responsibility since patients have autonomy in their healthcare, even in these cases, as long as they demonstrate mental competence
-Someone who reports abusing a child->We are required by state law to report this
-Someone reports plans to harm another->We are required by state law to report this
-Someone who reports minor crimes->We are not required to report this, but if called to testify in a court case, there is no patient-client confidentiality requirement

These guidelines would likely be included in a document that we share with all participants prior to starting a group session. I'm trying to assemble examples of these documents and will then create one for our sessions in order to be as transparent and ethical as possible.
dharmacorps
Posts: 1710
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:33 pm

Re: Resources for starting a meditation and behavioral health support group?

Post by dharmacorps »

Since the Buddha was very specific about the qualifications and ethical conduct of teachers, your own morality and conduct should be your primary concern before you look for ways to teach/regulate your students.

You may want to reflect seriously on what qualifies you to teach others dhamma. Unless you have spent a substantial amount of time being trained by a meditation teacher in a monastery or elsewhere, you may not be qualified to teach dhamma.
SarathW
Posts: 17360
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Resources for starting a meditation and behavioral health support group?

Post by SarathW »

Perhaps you can read the terms of service of Dhamma Wheel.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
ngoonera
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:02 pm

Re: Resources for starting a meditation and behavioral health support group?

Post by ngoonera »

That is a good idea--thank you for that suggestion. I'll add them to my list of resources that I will try to merge into a single document. I'm also thinking of adding a requirement that anyone who attends have access to healthcare with a mental health benefit. I know that will limit the group, but it will help to avoid the ethical quandry of listening to someone describe psychiatric symptoms, and then having no way for them to get the long-term help that they need. In the US, while our health system is not ideal, at least there is the option for Medicaid, and the ACA marketplaces do provide substantial insurance subsidies for low income individuals such that some people can get health insurance for the same cost cost as a family cell phone plan.
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