I’ve told you that every mental health professional needs regular consultation and I’ve told you about the benefits of peer consultation groups. Today I’m going to tell you how to put together a peer consultation group that ROCKS! Here are some things for you to consider as you put your own peer consultation group together.
- Mix it up. Diversity in the composition of your consultation group matters. It keep things interesting and increases the likelihood that biases are not overlooked. Those differences can help you stretch beyond your usual thinking and outside of your typical comfort zone.
- Consider safety. You are going to be talking about your strengths and your weaknesses in a consultation group. Although the discussion will most often be structured around your clients, the purpose of your consultation group is to expand and support your choices and your behaviors in therapy. As such, you are going to have your own blind spots and vulnerabilities pointed out and talked about. It’s important to choose colleagues that you can learn to trust.
- Similarity matters. If the individuals in your group are too different from you in their disciplines, ethics, or processes, you may find that there is no sense of safety in which to discuss your own vulnerabilities.
- Expertise matters, too. Look for colleagues that know more than you in at least one or two areas so that you can trust their feedback when you need it.
- Plan on mentoring. Including colleagues who know less than you in a particular area allows you an opportunity to mentor others in the field. Take advantage the mentoring that you can provide and take advantage of the mentoring that you can receive!
- Size of group. Just like in group therapy, I think 7-9 is optimal. This affords for someone to miss a group and you still have a group. And, it’s not so many that you get overlooked in the group.
- Stable composition. A consultation group functions best when the composition remains stable. In my current group, we must unanimously vote someone in before they can join us.
- Frequency of meetings. I prefer peer consultation groups that meet on a regular schedule. Mine meets monthly. Of course, we are free to consult by phone in between our regularly scheduled meetings.
- Attendance. Sketchy attendance at peer consultation groups can sabotage your group. When forming your consultation group, set the expectation for a commitment to attend each month. Obviously exceptions will crop up in anyone’s schedule. However, consistent attendance and full participation will go a long way toward building trust and confidence in your group.
So now that you know what I consider to be important when putting your consultation group together, drop me a note below and tell me about yours. Did I miss any important elements? Is yours decidedly different?