7 Ingredients for Effective Psychoeducation Group Rooms

Discovery Cards are a great example of how hands-on tools create engaging learning experiences through self-discovery

Discovery Cards are a great example of how hands-on tools create engaging learning experiences through self-discovery

Creating engaging learning experiences begins with the basics – the setup of the room where the group comes together and meets. You or someone on your team are most likely running groups everyday. First, “thank you” for all you’re doing for individuals in recovery and their families.

The question we’re here to help answer in this post is, How do I set up a group room to create a more dynamic and engaging learning experience? There are different types of groups. Their purposes and structures can be different. First, let’s clarify the differences between a process group and a psychoeducation group.  

R1 Learning – Best Practices

R1 Learning – Best Practices

  • Process Group – Process groups explicitly use the group context as a mechanism to promote change by developing, exploring, and examining interpersonal relationships within the group. They provide an opportunity to receive multiple perspectives, support, and feedback from other individuals in the group in safe and confidential environment. Process groups are usually led by one or two therapists interacting with a small group of clients. The circle setup works well for process groups, as the therapist can facilitate the group and monitor all group members. 

  • Psychoeducation Group – A psychoeducation group focuses on educating the individuals within the group about topics that serve the goals of treatment and recovery. The concepts (e.g., vocabulary, models and theories) learned through psychoeducation give individuals more to bring to the process groups and individual counseling sessions. 

Process groups will be the topic of another blog post. In this post, we want to stimulate your thinking on how best to set up the room for effective psychoeducation groups. The learning environment definitely sets the stage for how individuals learn. One of the key objectives for any learning setting is ensuring that the facilitator – you – will be able to address different learning styles. Setting up the environment so that visual, auditory, verbal, logical, and kin-esthetic learners can all be reached is essential.  

R1 Learning – Best Practices

R1 Learning – Best Practices

Here are 7 ingredients to create a best-practice environment for psychoeducation group rooms. Reflect on the questions below as you think about your current learning environment.

1. The Room – Do you have a space dedicated for psychoeducation groups? Ideally the room will be designed to promote more engagement, with multiple tables to encourage more interactions and more opportunities for sharing. This is different from the setup for a process group room, which typically has chairs arranged in a circle to encourage ... well … processing! If you don’t currently have a room for psychoeducation groups, is there a space that can be repurposed (for example, an art room, cafeteria, conference room)? Or, can you find a way to convert an existing process group room to this new dynamic setting as you need one?  

2. Tables – Do you have small tables that allow individuals to work creatively in small groups? Round tables that can accommodate 4–6 individuals are best. If you have a multipurpose room, you may want to use tables that can be easily folded up and removed.  

3. Chairs – Do you have classroom-type chairs in your rooms? Chairs should be comfortable from a human factors perspective, but not as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy or recliner type of chair. If learners are too physically comfortable it can sometimes set the stage for them to stay in their mental and emotional comfort zones. Getting out of one’s comfort zone is often part of the learning process. The goal is to have learners sit up straight, lean into the group, and participate fully. The type of chairs you use can help set the stage and the tone for this environment. 

4. Flip Charts – Do you have flip charts for each table that small groups can use to work on questions or problems together and engage their social, verbal, and logical learning styles? Flip charts are an excellent way for table groups to focus on an activity. They also enable groups to be creative by drawing pictures and offer the option to summarize their work through capturing lists, highlighting key points, etc. You’ll want to be sure to get colored markers and a few extra flip chart pads because you’ll probably find that once you start using them, you won’t want to stop! 

5. Digital Display – Do you use a monitor, whiteboard, or screen to display models, photos, videos, and other information to engage visual learners? You may already be using PowerPoint or another presentation tool. If so, great! If not, think about incorporating a visual display into your psychoeducation groups. Finding the best visuals – models, graphics, videos – is an art of its own. (Stay tuned – this will be the topic of another blog post soon!) For now, start to gather visuals you like and build a library for your team. 

6. Hands-On Tools – Do you introduce topical content via card decks, games, art supplies, or other tools to engage kinesthetic learners? Whenever you can put tools in the hands of individuals, they immediately become engaged. Hands-on tools allow individuals to process information differently: physically, mentally, and logically. Tools also allow individuals to be more creative and the learning becomes much more individualized. And, there is often anxiety within individuals in the group… moving things around in one’s hands is a wonderful healthy outlet for this nervous energy. We’re all about tools. Start looking for tools, asking others which ones they use, and start building an engagement toolkit.

7. YOU – Are you moving beyond lecture format, to better engage individuals by facilitating discussions and activities from the middle of the room? You may already be skilled and confident in delivering information in this type of setting. If so, excellent! If not, enhancing your facilitation skills can become a professional development goal for you. In the short-term, find someone on your team you think is a good facilitator and start observing them. We’ll share more tips about group facilitation soon. 

Take a look at the Psychoeducation Group Room photo above and answer the questions below: 

  • As you think about your group room, are you doing something similar to this now? Why? Why not? 

  • Do you have a space where this is possible? Where? If not, what space could be transformed into this type of setting, even if temporarily?  

  • Do you think you’d feel comfortable being in the center of the room facilitating versus lecturing from the front of the room or in a process circle? How might you improve your facilitation skills? 

  • How can you convince your team to invest in resources for a new group room setup (monitor, tables, flip charts, markers, etc.)?  

  • Why do you think individuals would benefit from this new setup? How you will you benefit? 

Setting up the room in a different way will help you think differently about what’s possible and how you design your group sessions. Be ready for lots of engagement!  

In future blog posts, we’ll cover best practices for presenting information with models, how to use flip charts effectively, and even how to improve your facilitation skills in groups. Stay tuned.

OK, I hope you were able to get something of value out of these ideas. If you did and you want to share it with others, here are three areas for action: 

  1. Share this blog with others. (Thank you!) 

  2. Start a conversation with your team. Bring this information to your next team meeting or share with your supervisor. Change starts in conversations. Good luck! Let us know how it goes. 

  3. Visit www.R1LEARNING.com to learn more about R1, the Discovery Cards, and how we’re creating engaging learning experiences through self-discovery. 

Tom Karl