Support Group Questions

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What are the support group guidelines?

The support group is meant to be a safe place for Jehovah's Witnesses to experience healing. To attain our goal of a safe environment for all, we ask each attender to commit to follow these group guidelines. Group members will allow the support group to be a safe place by:

Keeping confidential what is said at meetings and who attends. This is critical for those who have family and loved ones still in the Watchtower Organization. As group facilitators we are morally and ethically obligated to break confidentiality when a member communicates an intention to kill themself; a member communicates an intention to harm another person; or a member reveals ongoing sexual or physical abuse.

Allowing everyone to take ownership of their own feelings, attitudes and behaviors. Not everyone shares the same feelings however everyone is allowed to have their own opinions and feelings without rebuke from others in the group.

Allowing everyone time to talk. Those who are more talkative need to allow the quieter members time to share their views. At times the more sensitive members may need encouragement to share their feelings.

Restricting vulgarity or condenscending behavior. As facilitators we are responsible to ask anyone that comes into the group intending to cause disruption and discord to leave the group.

Asking permission before entering another person's space. Some members may have experienced abuse and may not appreciate another person touching them. Others need the freedom to just listen and experience the group and should not be bombarded with personal questions. Please be sensitive to others by giving them your phone number instead of asking for theirs. This allows them to call you when they feel comfortable.

Remembering that laughter is healing. When the group finds humour in the stories or someone's comments, they are not laughing at you or your situation. They are experiencing healing.

For Christians who come to the group to learn about Jehovah's Witnesses we need them to have a loving attitude and a listening ear to former Witnesses when they need to share. The healing process takes precedence over learning.

Children who are actively participating in the support group are welcome to attend. If you are unable to find a sitter please call in advance of the meeting and we will see if we can find someone outside the place of meeting to look after the younger children.

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Why do former Jehovah's Witnesses need support?

Jehovah's Witnesses who come out of the Watchtower organization do so usually with a great deal of "baggage". Some of the issues that former Jehovah's Witnesses need to deal with are:

The pain of losing family and friends.

The feeling of isolation. When one is cut off from their family and friends in the organization (often this has been their only association) there seems to be no one who understands. When the former Witness does try to share with the outside world they may be told to just get over it. It is not unusual to feel that they are the only ones going through these feelings.

Years of indoctrination. The Society has taught their followers to be prejudiced against the world outside the Watchtower especially those who call themselves Christians. When the Witness leave the "safety" of the organization it can often be an unsettling experience and a fearful time.

Fear of Churches. It may be difficult to even enter a church as Jehovah's Witnesses have been taught that this is Satan's territory.

Feeling of failure. Often Jehovah's Witnesses feel that they have failed God because they were not able to stay in "God's organization". Outside the Watchtower they can feel as though God no longer loves them and has totally abandoned them.

Anger against the organization and/or God himself.

Inability to make decisions or the desire to find another "high control" group to replace the controlled life in the Watchtower.

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Who should join a support group?

Any former Jehovah's Witness whether an inactive Witness, disassociated, or disfellowshipped is encouraged to attend. As well, any Jehovah's Witness who is questioning the Watchtower Society may attend. In many support groups, Christians who are willing to support former Witnesses in their journey out of the of the Watchtower are also welcome.

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How do I start a support group?

Support groups offer the opportunity for people to meet and share information about their experiences with cult involvement. It is a place where one can speak freely about their feelings, and know that others, no doubt, have had the same feelings at some point in time. Support groups provide a means of relating strategies for recovering from the cult experience and understanding how you got recruited. Here are some specific things to do to begin a support group:

Choose a location: homes, meeting rooms, civic centers, etc.

Advertise: post notices at the library, churches, barber shops, beauty shops and newspapers. Word of mouth is also beneficial. Sign guestbooks on websites.

Choose topics: at your first meeting, have a brain-storming session to think of possible topics or use this time to get to know each other and share your story.

Choose meeting frequency: at the first meeting you should decide how often the group will meet. If it is a large group, you might want to set up a buddy system where willing participants include their names and phone numbers on a list to be circulated at the meetings.

Plan your meeting: the content of your meetings is up to you and your group members. If you subscribe to a ex-cult newsletter, information in it may be shared. Sometimes Bible study could be included, or information obtained from the internet. Handouts could be made available or you may prefer a simple group discussion. A guest speaker may be invited. Keep it simple and uplifting and avoid an all-out gripe session. Everyone has had a negative cult experience, but it is more important to relay what has helped rather than dwell on the negatives.

You are making a wonderful commitment to yourself and the people you will soon be helping! The whole point of a support group is to educate ourselves and others about cults and find positive ways of learning to deal with this negative experience. May God bless you.

Contributed by CEPA Inc

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