FAQ’s for Participants:
Frequently Asked Questions
Support groups offered through Birchwood are for individuals who are or will be monitored under an alternative to discipline program for your professional licensing board. Our groups are secure and tailored for your required program. Each group consists of professionals who are your peers in recovery and are led by a Birchwood Facilitator.
Groups consist of all different walks of life and experiences. They are meant to be a close support system for you during your monitoring period. At enrollment, you will be connected with a peer-to-peer mentor. These peers will connect with you during your first year of monitoring to assist during this transition. Please contact us to obtain enrollment forms and a participant handbook, which outlines our expectations and processes for support.
Each state licensing board and/or alternative program have different requirements for monitoring. If your program does not currently contract with Birchwood and you are interested in our support groups, we recommend contacting your program administrators and requesting they consider allowing you to attend a Birchwood support group. We would also welcome you to contact us with your request and we can reach out to your program on your behalf. We have historically received requests from individuals and as a result of contacting the programs, we have been approved to work with those programs.
Each group consists of participants just like you. The process for a support group remains consistent among the two types of groups, local and online. Local groups meet in a physical location and online groups meet virtually through secure video meeting rooms using a live webcam. The choice is yours on which type of group you enroll in.
Each group is designed to the needs of that group and topics are discussed that are personally and professionally relevant in your journey. The group facilitator is a professional that facilitates the group using a gentle guidance focusing on education and support. It remains the participants’ responsibility both individually and collectively to engage in the discussions and support on a weekly basis. Many participants develop life-long bonds with his/her group members that are invaluable.
The process for online and local support groups are very similar. While discussions remain mostly the same, there are naturally some differences. And just because something is different, doesn’t make it better or worse, it is simply different. If you have never attended an online event, it may take a session or two to begin to get comfortable with the differences.
Visual: In online meetings, each participant has a live video stream. Everyone can see everyone, including yourself. Sometimes seeing yourself can be a distraction and this feature can be hidden. There are also different layouts for the videos on a screen. The most common, we like to call the Brady Bunch Effect. It has multiple “boxes” in a line and stacked.
Audio: In online meetings, the audio can be streamed from a computer or called in from a telephone. Headphones with built-in microphones are required for privacy and quality of audio. When an individual is speaking, their video “box” will light up. This gives you a visual representation of who is speaking.
Security: Online groups are encrypted and require a direct link to login that is tied to a participant’s email account.
One of the main differences between online and local groups is that you physically cannot hear multiple people talking in an online meeting, the technology may not transmit multiple audio signals at once. But when was the last time it was easy to listen to multiple conversations at once in a physical room? Additionally, online groups encourage participants to fine tune their communication skills to navigate the virtual format and encourages creative communication. There are some neat features, such as breakout groups, that allow online participants to break into pairs or small groups for discussion and then return to whole group. I find this feature better than break out groups in a local group because the audio is isolated from the other groups and participants can focus easier.
While there are many other interesting talking points comparing online and local groups, we realize that online groups are not for everyone and we encourage anyone who is uncertain to just try it. Most often people find participating in online groups becomes more effective for them for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:
- may provide a sense of security for some who suffer from anxiety. They begin to open up and share more than they would in person, leading to an increased awareness and healing.
- Decreases time away from work and home.
- Decreases travel time
- Removes geographical restraints
- Reduces financial barriers
- Less time off work
- Savings of gas money
- Savings of childcare expenses