I highly recommend that you go through this program with a friend or a group of friends.
If you and your friends are familiar with Twelve Step groups, you can use the traditional structure.
If you’re not familiar with that structure, or if you’d like to try something new, here is a structure that I recommend. It relies on Active Listening. It is a way to create a safe and respectful space that makes it possible for you to feel heard and gives you room for self-discovery.
Unlike therapy or coaching, there is no leader. You are among peers. Following an agreed-upon format gives your gathering a structure that is clear and avoids ambiguity. You are sharing experiences as peers, not giving or receiving advice.
The overall structure
You can get together in person, online, or by phone. I suggest you commit to fourteen sessions together, meeting once a week. You can space out the sessions more, but I suggest you don’t have them more often than once a week. This way, you give yourselves time to digest each Step before moving to the next one.
Why fourteen sessions? In the first one, you go over the format together. You also share your hopes and fears about this process.
You can understand why it makes sense to share your hopes: It allows you to formulate them clearly and understand what everybody wants.
Sharing your fears is just as important. It is an excellent way to establish safety. It is virtually impossible not to be somewhat scared as you embark on an exploration of complex issues. Acknowledging the fears and committing to safety and respect will go a long way toward making this process more productive.
The following twelve session are each devoted to one step. I will go through the structure of a session in more detail below.
The last session is one in which you reflect on the process: What you have learned about yourself. What has changed? What has not changed? What do you want to focus on in the future?
It is also an excellent time to discuss whether or not you want to continue to meet beyond the initial fourteen sessions. If you continue, there are several ways that you can do it:
– One option is to do another round of the Proactive Twelve Steps, revisiting them in light of the experience you have gained during this first round.
– Another is to have ongoing regular meetings where you can talk about the challenges of your life. You do this with the same Active Listening format, i.e., there is no advice given or taken. The goal is for each of you to have space to hear yourself think.
– You can also choose to have meetings devoted to talking about other chapters of this book. This discussion, too, takes place under the same format, talking about your experiences in such a way that you can hear yourself think, with no advice given or taken.
The structure of a session
Let’s say that each session lasts about an hour. You can make the session shorter if there are just two of you or longer if there are several of you.
I invite you to open each session with a short moment of silence (a minute or two).
Then, one person reads the Step that you are exploring that day. I suggest you rotate who does it.
Then comes the sharing. Count on ten to twenty minutes of sharing per person. I will describe the Active Listening format below.
After everybody has shared, allow a little time for people to reflect on the process itself. That is, what people found helpful (or unhelpful) in the sharing and how they were being listened to. This kind of feedback helps you be better attuned to others’ needs and your own needs. Plan on a few minutes per person, at least in the first few sessions.
At the end of the session, keep a few minutes for a very brief “bookmark.” Each participant finds a word or two, or an image, to remember what came up for them.
See specifics of how to share and listen: Active Listening.