Pet Loss Support Groups Class Details
- Length: 2 sessions, 4 1/2 hours total
- Class Format: On-demand teleclass to take anytime, at your convenience. You will receive links to 4 1/2 hours of MP3 recordings (from a live class which includes the questions, comments and interactions of the participants with the instructor) and PDF’s containing 96 pages of detailed handouts.
- Tuition: $112
- Instructors: Enid Traisman, MSW, CT, CFS and Donna Kahora, RN
- Who Should Attend: Anyone who is interested in gaining the information and skill to start and effectively facilitate a pet loss support group. Particularly helpful for veterinary professionals, counselors, therapists, animal communicators and other animal care professionals who want to support others through pet loss. This class may also be valuable as a review to those who currently facilitate support groups.
- Register: Click here to purchase (This link will automatically redirect you to the Animals in our Hearts web site for purchase.)
- Testimonials: Click here
For students enrolled in the certification program:
- This is an elective class
- Prerequisite: None
- Required Reading:
- Effective Support Skills, How to Plan, Design, Facilitate, and Enjoy Them, James E. Miller. Fort Wayne, Indiana: Willowgreen Publishing 1998 64 pages
- The Understanding Your Grief Support Group Guide, Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D. Fort Collins, Colorado: Companion Press 2004 99 pages
(Both books include excellent guidelines for support group facilitators. Wolfelt’s book also includes plans for a 12-session structured support group.
- Fee for Coaching & Mentoring session held after submission of Written Class Review: $150 (fee not applicable for students who have pre-paid the entire certification program fee which includes these sessions)
In this class you will have an opportunity to:
- Understand the purpose and scope of pet loss support groups and ways in which they are different from therapy groups, workshops and one-on-one counseling
- Become familiar with specific ethics and boundaries important to facilitating pet loss support groups, including knowing when to refer to a therapist
- Explore the differences and varying benefits of drop-in versus closed groups and sharing-listening groups versus structured educational groups
- Learn how to plan for support group logistics such as location, frequency and length of meetings and format
- Learn how to structure pet loss support groups in ways that maximize participants’ emotional safety, learning and growth
- Learn from two highly experienced pet loss support group facilitators regarding real stories and real people and how their issues were handled in the group setting
- Identify the skills and knowledge needed to effectively facilitate a pet loss support group
- Practice using the skills of empathic inquiry and empathic response through numerous exercises and case studies
- Learn how to effectively intervene when challenges and problems emerge such as with disruptive, difficult, shy, angry, rude, or extremely upset group members
- Identify when our own issues are triggered by a group member’s story, emotions or values and how to contain our triggered feelings while facilitating
- Increase awareness of the importance of good self-care and support for facilitators including seeking grief support for own losses outside of the group and peer support and professional mentoring
- Become familiar with a wide array of additional resources for continued facilitator learning and skill building, and resources to share with support group members for their continued healing and growth
Content and Purpose
Attending well led pet loss support groups is a very comforting and validating experience. Being surrounded by others who understand the grief over a companion animal on a heart felt level can bring a sense of both safety and not being alone—making it possible to share the important story of one’s animal and their loss. Such sharing with others who understand helps diminish grief and facilitates healing.
To an onlooker, an effective support group may appear to be seamlessly led by the facilitator, with each participant being fully heard and supported, and with differences amongst members’ stories and values being validated and respectfully honored. For this to occur, however, the facilitator needs to fully understand, cultivate and carefully apply specific skills to insure that every participant feels safe, listened to, respected, and has ample opportunity to openly share without judgement or imposed advice from others. Skilled facilitators know how to deal with disruptions, challenges and problems that arise with grace and ease, and understand and work within the ethics and boundaries of this field. The purpose of this class is to review these concepts and skills in detail to prepare those who wish to facilitate pet loss support groups to do so with both confidence and competence.
People are often drawn to offer pet loss support groups or pet loss grief counseling because they have been through tremendous pain of loss and healing, and having come through that, feel a compassionate and loving desire to help others through this same process. Such compassion and love is the best possible foundation for offering grief support. However, because effectively supporting those who grieve requires more than our own loss and healing experience and a desire to help, this class teaches the skills of empathic expression, group facilitation, and understanding the ethics and boundaries of the field.
The instructors, Enid Traisman, MSW, CT and Donna Kahora, RN, have over 47 years of combined experience of facilitating pet loss support groups. In this class they offer not only concepts and skill building, but bring a depth and breadth of real life experience leading groups.
Within a support group,
feelings are golden.
Treat them as such by lifting
them up for all to see and
by responding to them
with respect and appreciation.
~ James E. Miller, Effective Support Groups
Session 1: Planning and Structuring a Pet Loss Grief Support Group
- Purpose and Scope:
- Expectations of what can be accomplished and what cannot
- Difference between a support group, a therapy group, one-on-one counseling, and a workshop
- Knowing when to refer to a therapist and having referrals vetted
- Finding Sponsors, Participants and Space:
- Finding an organization sponsor for a group (if needed or desired)
- Locating appropriate space for a group; seating arrangements
- Advertising and attracting participants
- Charging for group attendance or facilitating as a volunteer
- How to Structure Pet Loss Support Groups:
- Open for drop ins? Closed except to those who signed up?
- Schedule: Ongoing or held for a finite period of time?
- Frequency of meetings
- Length of meetings
- Ground rules and boundaries for support groups
- Format: Just sharing? Or include some rituals, exercises, activities or educational materials?
- Two Golden Rules of Grief Support: Empathy before strategy; Do not impose
- Understanding group dynamics: What can go wrong and how to keep a group on track and harmonious
- Qualities and responsibilities of an effective pet loss support group facilitator
- Acknowledging and Active Listening
- Empathic questioning to gain clarity
- Appropriate use of self-disclosure
- Effective interventions for challenges and problems: difficult or disruptive group members; shy, introverted group members; those who take up too much air time; when a member may sob uncontrollably and seem to be falling apart; when members are angry or rude with other members
- Handling major differences in values and beliefs: Between members and when the values or way of dealing with grief of a member is quite different from the facilitator’s
- The difference between offering resources as suggestions to consider (whether tangible such as books or ideas on how to reframe an issue causing pain) and being overly directive or imposing our values and beliefs onto members
What I liked most were the exercises and examples from real people and real life situations
The handouts are priceless. Thank you for taking the time to make them so detailed and complete. The class materials and presentation were superb. I’m very glad I took the course. What I liked most were the exercises and examples from real people and real life situations. And thank you, Teresa, for offering this class at this special price. Thank you, Enid and Donna, for providing this service and support to grieving souls.Donna, what a wonderful tribute to [your dog] Nikki. Thank you all for your time and wisdom.
~ Evelyn G, Bahama, North Carolina
The different group formats of the two instructors was very helpful
Since I am already helping to facilitate groups, I understand much of the dynamics presented, and thought it was a wonderful overview – well presented and well thought out. But I also learned a lot more than I was expecting. The different group formats of the two instructors was very helpful, allowing us to see some similarities and differences in groups set-up and dynamics.
Handouts were extremely valuable. I am a very visual person, and seeing the written work is essential for my learning style. I am a copious note-taker for this reason. So I found it incredibly helpful to have most of the note taking done, allowing me time to listen carefully and jot a few notes along with those in front of me.
What I liked most was Teresa’s beautiful voice! It was my first teleclass, and I was actually very impressed with the entire thing. Loved the ability to be in my home environment and still feel the group presence.
Again, it was wonderful to have three perspectives – sometimes in perfect sync, and sometimes presenting differences in experience and group dynamics. As I mentioned, I could listen to Teresa all day – very soothing, very embracing, very calming presence you are! And, of course, I have the utmost admiration for Enid – she is my human inspiration for this work. And it was lovely to meet Donna and gain some very valuable information – a lot of time and energy went in to the formation of FON and I thank you for sharing!
~ Debbie C, Portland, Oregon
Excellent information on the handouts. Like a textbook!
I can read it many times and get more information each time. The class also shows me areas where I need to work on my own loss to be able to help others. I would have enjoyed an even longer class! The compassion and understanding of each instructor made the class a gift. I wish this class were a requirement for all vets.
~ Linda K, Willits, CA
Was opened up to so much from this class. Thank you!
Very valuable, perhaps without my not realizing it I have been doing this for years, but now following the format for the category of responses, I have a structure and confidence. I have already put this training to use with the loss of a patient. What I liked most about the class was the different views of three instructors and the handouts. I liked the examples of different types of support groups that Enid and Donna facilitate. I enjoyed listening to the descriptions of Donna’s group, the intake form, the environment created in her home, ground rules,,etc. I believe for myself, as an RN, a small history and having an idea just where the participant is in their stage of grief, is desired. I just learned and was opened up to so much from this class. Thank you all.
~ Marilyn O, East Elmhurst, New York
A+! Though the class was on the telephone it was more like being in an actual, face-to-face class
The class further increased my resolve to follow through with organizing & facilitating a Pet Loss Support Group, and reinforced that I-can-do-this:) It added to my confidence. The handouts held a wealth of information. The exercises made me *think.* Some were common sense, however, a couple were more difficult. The exercises were very helpful in always knowing that, 1st & foremost, the client needed to feel trust, caring, safe. Though the class was on the telephone it was more like being in an actual, face-to-face class. I liked the communication with instructors, their expertise, the question period, the relaxed atmosphere and the meditation. I liked that Donna, Enid, Teresa were all professionals in the health & mental health fields. This class provided building blocks in ever-needing more knowledge. But, Oh my! This class has me wanting more.
~ Veronica G, Tewksbury MA
Pet loss support groups encourage
members to process feelings
about their loss without seeing
grief as an illness that
requires medical intervention.
They benefit from knowing they are
capable of helping themselves with finding just the right listening ears. Members not only receive support, but also provide it to others,
which can in itself, help them
to feel better about themselves.
~ Donna Kahora, RN, Founder, Friends of Nikki
Pet loss support groups
are a safe environment where people
can share their feeling of grief
knowing they won’t be judged.
The facilitator validates and cares about each individual, listening openly to their story and their unique experiences paving the way for a healthy grief process while they navigate this new journey.
Seeing and hearing others in the
group begin to heal and then grow
from their experiences gives
members a unique perspective of
a variety of different experiences
which can help each individual
begin to make peace
with their own unique loss.
~ Enid Traisman, MSW, CT, Director of the Dove Lewis Pet Loss Support and Memorial Art Therapy Program