PLN is primarily an online organization. But with the easing of the epidemic we’re beginning the work of helping people to build local PLN networks so that groups, workshops/retreats, and co-counseling pairs can meet in person.
On this page, you will find information about:
* what a local PLN network does
* how to recruit members for a local group and find a place to meet
* how to run a PLN support group
* what resources we have available to you as a group leader, and what skills you should work to develop
* where you can find established PLN local networks; there are only a few places so far — almost all of our groups take place online at the moment — but more local networks are forming
What a Local PLN Network Does
1) Support Groups, Book Discussion Groups, and Exercise Groups
No one needs permission to start a PLN group. If you’re following the PLN Principles and Agreements, then you’re a PLN group. Peak Living Network support groups are free, but you can ask participants to pitch in toward the group’s expenses (such as the cost of renting a meeting space if you meet in person, or the fee for Meetup.com listings if you want to make your group a Meetup group).
Support groups can be general groups that are open to everyone, or can have a specific topic or constituency. If you create and lead your own group, the constituency or topic is up to you.
Examples of Constituency Groups: women, lesbians and gay men, Jews, people of color, working class people, school teachers, scholars, activists, elderly people, parents — and an endless number of other possibilities
Examples of Topic Groups: setting and meeting goals, dealing with the mental health system and medication decisions, improving physical health, social justice, spirituality and religion, overcoming abuse, — and an equally endless number of other possibilities
PLN support groups are devoted largely to splitting time, where each person gets the same length of time to be the focus of the group’s attention and to talk about whatever is on their mind. Turns are timed; the person who is speaking needs to stop when their time is up. (See How to Run a PLN Support Group).
Men are encouraged to join PLN groups (except for women’s groups), but please don’t accept men who have histories of abusing women even if they consider themselves to be in a process of change.
Book discussion groups for The Joyous Recovery are run more informally, and participants turns to talk aren’t timed. Each week the group discusses roughly two chapters from the book. These groups are about discussing ideas rather than about working on emotional processing, though people do end up sharing some personal things because of the book’s content.
If you want to have a book group in your area, see the Discussion Guide: Book Groups for The Joyous Recovery
Exercise groups meet to work together on going through the healing exercises that accompany The Joyous Recovery. You can learn more by reading the Exercise Group Guide and the Exercise Program for The Joyous Recovery.
2) Co-Counseling Sessions
A co-counseling session (also called “splitting time”) involves two participants who work together to support emotional healing for both of them A co-counseling session follows a clear structure, with each person having equal time to talk and an equal time to listen and give support. You can learn more about co-counseling here. You can learn to co-counsel by taking a PLN training course, or by working through the co-counseling manual with a partner of your choice and watching the co-counseling training videos.
If several people in a local network start to use co-counseling in their lives regularly, that makes a big contribution to creating a feeling of having a strong network. And the combination of weekly or monthly support groups with participation in two-person sessions does even more to create a healing community.
3) Other gatherings and activities
A local PLN network can choose to offer additional activities, such as day-long or weekend workshops/retreats, co-counseling trainings, healing outings, or a local newsletter. The participants decide what they wish to offer. (Below we discuss some of the ways in which we can help you with your local efforts).
You also have the option to work on building an online network that is based on an issue or topic rather than based on a geographical area. Any of the group topics or constituencies listed above could also serve as the theme for an online network rather than a local in-person group. (PLN is a network of networks.) If you would like help to build an online network under the umbrella of PLN, write us at [email protected]. If you like our principles and agreements, we’re happy to work with you to make happen what you want to see happen!
Recruiting Participants and Finding Meeting Places
You can find participants for your PLN group by:
* Approaching friends or relatives you care about and respect
* Approaching people you’ve met through groups or organizations you’ve been part of, such as your church, service organization, gym, or social change group
* Putting up flyers on bulletin boards
* Offering periodic public introductory talks about PLN (we can help you prepare for this)
* Reaching out to leaders of local organizations that have related values and missions
* Reaching out to college students in your area (who often have time on their hands and inquiring minds)
* Putting up a notice about your group on the PLN Slack space and including an announcement in a PLN newsletter
* Giving people written information about PLN and about co-counseling. Start with the handouts called “What is the Peak Living Network?” and “What is Co-Counseling?”[LINK down this page to leadership topic]. You can also send people a link to the PLN YouTube channel (this link will send people directly to a list of videos for people new to the network).
You can find meeting spaces by:
* Using space in private houses of participants (to the extent that you feel comfortable doing so)
* Getting donated space through a church or business, or pay to rent church space (and ask group participants to chip in to cover that expense)
* Exploring the use of pre-school spaces, which are usually unused in the evenings
* Approaching local social services agencies to ask them to donate space
* Using meeting spaces that you can reserve at local libraries
How to Run a PLN Support Group
The structure of a PLN support group is simple and straightforward; you don’t need to have any special training in order to run one. The instructions below tell you exactly what to do and even what to say — those parts are in quotes. (There’s no need to say the quoted parts word-for-word, by the way; PLN is not like some organizations where you’re supposed to follow an exact script. The proposed wording is just there to help you feel comfortable leading the group; read it aloud if you want, or use your own words if you prefer.) Some of the reminders may feel repetitive, but we recommend saying them at each meeting nonetheless.
Ask anyone who is planning to come to a group meeting to read the PLN Principles and Agreements carefully before attending.
Running the meeting involves the following steps:
1) When it’s time to begin, announce that the meeting is starting and welcome the participants. Remind people that: “a) This is an advice-free zone; we listen and support, but we don’t try to find solutions for people or propose things they might try; b) We are all going to have equal time to talk, and keeping to the timed lengths of turns is important; c) Everyone here is equally valuable and has important contributions to make.”
2) Announce the “New and Good” round of the meeting. “Each participant takes a brief turn to report one or two positive experiences from recent life. We stay away from discussion of our distresses during this round of the meeting; discipline regarding this point pays off for everyone. The positive experience you share doesn’t need to be anything big; it can be as simple as a good mood you had or a meal you enjoyed.”
3) Announce the “Splitting Time” round of the meeting, which will be the bulk of the meeting. “Participant’s turns to speak are all the same length and are timed. I’ll be taking a turn just like everyone else. Everyone gets two fingers up from me when they have two minutes left to talk. You’ll need to stop talking when your time is up even if you aren’t at a good stopping point. Please don’t say, ‘Let me just finish my thought’ – that’s what the two-minute warning is for! During each person’s turn, any comments or questions from other group members need to be very brief and supportive; don’t take up the person’s time with long comments. No one who makes a comment is to talk about himself or herself; we never change the focus away from the person whose turn it is. Lastly, the speaker has complete say over how to use his or her turn. They can choose to speak about whatever they’re feeling or thinking about, tell about recent events in their life, laugh, cry, or do whatever feels most valuable to them at the moment. They’re there to soak up the group’s caring attention.”
When you calculate the length of people’s turns, leave at least ten extra minutes. For example, if you have four people present (counting you) and 60 minutes remaining in your meeting time (after doing the “New and Good” round), take turns of 12 minutes each, not 15. We do this partly to leave time for the closing round of the meeting (see below), and partly because there is almost always some slippage as we switch from one person to the next.
When the person who is speaking has two minutes left in their turn, signal them with two fingers up. This gives them time to wrap up their thought or finish a story they’re telling.
Getting people to stop when their time is up can be a challenging point, but is crucial to the group’s success. If speakers run past their time, the group will either run late – and some people may not be able to stay late – or other people’s turns will get shortened. (And if that happens repeatedly, some participants will get frustrated and stop coming to the group.) If the speaker needs additional support or attention, they can approach someone and ask for additional time after the group.
4) After the group is done splitting time, announce the “Closing” round, where each participant briefly shares something they’re looking forward to in the coming days or weeks. As 0with the “New and Good” round, participants are asked to keep their comments to a minute or less but we don’t formally time the turns.
5) Finally, remind people that everything anyone shares during their turn is fully confidential and is not be mentioned to anyone.
THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO IT! YOU CAN DO IT!
One additional point: If you want to, you’re free to add some open discussion time at the beginning of the meeting, immediately following the “New and Good” round. During this time you could ask a question for everyone to explore, or read a poem or some other short inspiring piece aloud, or read a brief section from The Joyous Recovery and discuss it together. If you choose to do this, be sure to decide ahead of time how long the discussion portion of the meeting will be and watch the time carefully; otherwise the “Splitting Time” round – which is the most important part of the meeting — will get very short.
Resources for Group Leaders
We want to encourage and support you to start a local support group and build a local network. Here’s some of what we can offer you:
* Connecting with other PLN leaders through the PLN Slack space. There is a private Slack channel for discussing leadership issues; you can request to join that channel by sending an email to [email protected]. (You will need to have already joined the PLN Slack space.)
* Co-counseling training, which can help you in two ways: 1) It will increase the amount of emotional support available to you, and 2) You’ll learn skills that you can immediately use to improve your group leadership.
* Consultation with experienced PLN leaders — we’re happy anytime to help you think through challenges to starting a group, solve problems that are arising in your group or local network, support you through self-doubts about your leadership, or set goals with you for your leadership, including goals for the growth and development of your local network. Reach reach out to [email protected] to request consultation on local network development.
* PLN videos, including ones on how to start and run groups, how to co-counsel, and many others
* We can list you as a contact person for your geographical area in the “Local Networks” directory of this website, which can help you find people near you who are interested in PLN. To request to be listed, send an email to [email protected] with the name, email address, and geographical area that you would like us to use in your listing.
* Emotional support from other PLN participants through using the Slack space or participating in a support group yourself that’s led by someone else; in these ways you can receive support not only for your leadership but for all other aspects of your life.
* Handouts that you can use to recruit new members or to give to current members; there are many on the Materials page of this website, including What is the Peak Living Network?, What Goes On In a PLN Support Group? and What is Co-Counseling?.
* Lundy’s book The Joyous Recovery, which forms the basis for the Peak Living Network and offers many suggestions on emotional healing, building personal strength, and developing leadership skills.
* Reading materials for you, particularly Establishing and Maintaining Boundaries
Skills that we encourage leaders to work on include:
* Believing that your thoughts and opinions matter
* Believing that you have the right to make decisions if you’re the one leading the group (anyone else is free to run their own group if they want), while also remaining flexible and open to constructive feedback
* Feeling able to stop people when their turn is over, even if they are in mid-sentence or are talking about a painful issue or are crying. This is perhaps the single most important skill for a group leader to develop.
* Knowing how to ask for help, and allowing yourself to do so. This includes asking for help from your group participants with the logistics of planning and holding the group, and asking for help from other PLN people regarding leadership issues and challenges.
* Knowing where your boundaries are and asserting them firmly, without letting guilt or politeness prevent you from doing so, while also respecting other people’s boundaries
* Being able to hear feedback from group participants or chapter members, and working on making improvements in your leadership style based on that feedback, avoiding defensiveness
* Building more and more support for yourself into your life
* Overcoming any feelings you may have of needing or being obligated to solve problems for people, rescue them from their unhappiness, or give them advice
* Overcoming the need to offer wisdom, including the urge to make summarizing statements at the end of people’s turns
We all need to work on these things, and we’ll all get better and better at them over time. You can do it!
We encourage you to learn, and participate in, co-counseling. Co-counseling skills are very helpful for a leader to have. Consider taking a training class if you haven’t had one. Getting frequent co-counseling sessions for yourself is also one of the ways to build more support into your life, and gives you a place to work on some of the above issues. You can also work on the above skills by connecting with and consulting with other PLN leaders, by working with the feedback you group members give you — both positive and critical feedback — and by periodically reviewing the above list.
Established PLN Local Networks
Most PLN groups and activities take place online currently. However, there are established (and growing) local networks in the following regions:
US and Canada
Cincinnati, Ohio Tri-State Area — Contact is Kelly; [email protected]
Colorado (Denver area) — Contact is Arthur; email: [email protected]; website: arthurzey.com/peak-living-network/
Kentucky, South Central — Contact is Kay; [email protected]
Los Angeles, CA — Contact is MaryAnn; [email protected]
New England — Contacts are Lundy and Betsy; [email protected] (People in nearby states are welcome to join us if they don’t mind driving here for gatherings)
New York City — Contact is Martha; [email protected]
Pennsylvania, Western — Contacts are Justine and Vid; email: [email protected]; Facebook: Our Very Own Peak Living Network
Saskatchewan — Contact is Lorran; [email protected]
Spokane, WA / Coeur d’Alene, ID — Contact is Alyssa; [email protected]
Washington, DC — Contact is Irene; [email protected]
Belgium — Contact is Annelies; [email protected]
Devon, England — Contact is Jeanette; [email protected]
Scotland — Contact is Lynne; [email protected]
These local networks are for men and women of all backgrounds, including all different experiences of emotional injury and oppression. They do not have specific resources on domestic abuse to offer (except for the Devon group).