Chapter 4 Facilitating Rhetoric: Paratherapeutic Activity in Community Support Groups

Nora K. Augustine

What is the most important takeaway from your chapter? 

I want readers to finish this chapter with a better understanding of the mental health care that occurs in non-traditional settings—specifically, in support groups that are facilitated by persons who don’t necessarily have formal credentials as a therapist—and feel more empowered (and motivated) to take on paratherapeutic roles in their own communities. 

If you were making discussion questions for students (advanced undergraduates or early graduate students) to go along with your chapter, what would they be?  

  • How do you define “support”—either in or out of community support groups. Are you persuaded by this author’s argument that support groups can serve and/or clarify participants’ mental health needs? Why or why not? 
  • Based on this chapter’s discussion of Compass’s facilitator training, do you think this agency adequately prepares its volunteers to facilitate rhetoric in support groups?  
    • Which strategies seem most valuable, and why? Do any of the rhetorical strategies discussed in this chapter strike you as ineffective or counterproductive? 
    • If you were responsible for training support group facilitators, what additional strategies (not discussed in this chapter) might you recommend to them, and why? 
  • This study employs autoethnographic inquiry from an author who has been both a client and a volunteer at the agency she analyzes. How might her personal connections to this organization and its mission be a strength of the chapter? How might they be a weakness? If you could design a quantitative study to examine one of her claims, what would it be? 

What questions do you feel your chapter leaves un-examined or where would you go with it next? 

I would like to delve much more deeply into possible counterarguments, e.g., the risks or drawbacks of paratherapeutic rhetoric. In the course of researching for this chapter, I learned a great deal about the differences between support groups, self-help groups, and group therapy—including the fact that mental health researchers and clinicians have often been skeptical of support groups’ benefits. I am wary of being accused of minimizing the importance of professional credentials, which is not my intention. I would also like to give more attention to scholarly criticisms of “support” as discouraging political activism. 

Is there anything that you want those considering doing work in MHR to know? 

My chapter ends with a broad call for MHR scholars to consider the practical applicability of our research—not just in terms of the recommendations we can make to clinicians, policymakers, etc., but also in the time/energy/resources we can directly contribute to our communities as paratherapeutic practitioners. I am very excited to see how future MHR research will continue to explore this question.


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