What should I expect at one of these Open Up sessions?
Arriving at the venue, you will be personally welcomed into the space by one of our two friendly volunteer facilitators.
You will be offered a seat, a cup of tea, and introduced to the rest of the group who may be ‘regulars’ or first-timers. A usual group typically sits around 4 - 8 people.
The session begins and the lead facilitator will introduce themselves.
If you've never attended a session, the facilitator will start with a brief explanation of - what Open Up is, why it was started, how it will run, and some supporting literature which backs it.
Next, the facilitator reads out the ‘Ground Rules’ - 10 guidelines which we agree upon to make the session more comfortable and smooth. For instance, Ground Rule #3 states that 'nobody is required to speak - if you'd prefers to just listen - that is completely okay’. These Ground Rules were developed through implementing participant feedback.
Now the conversation starts.
This part is the hardest to explain because every group and every conversation is different. What does seem to be consistent, however, is that what usually begins as a room full of strangers (or friends) feeling slightly awkward and unsure - ends as a room full of people who understand each other.
Over the course of the hour-long discussion, you might have gained new insights, connected with people’s stories, or gotten something important off of your chest. People often express how refreshing the honesty is, the casual and judgement-free nature of the group dynamic, and the genuine openness to listen to each other and explore ideas and experiences.
After the discussion, the facilitator ends the session, reminds participants about the Anonymity Ground Rule, and provides guidance as to how to access professional mental health services, should anyone be looking for further support.
Finally, we wash up our tea cups, re-set the couches and say our goodbye's 'til the next one.