My Unexpected Path to Peer-Facilitation
Written by: Kristin Thompson
I wrote my first poem in elementary school as an assignment. It was about the Cat in the Hat book. I can still remember it. Back then, my teacher told me it had to rhyme. Thankfully, I learned later on that my poems did not have to rhyme. When I was around 12 I began writing in what I suppose what could be considered my first journal although it was really paper shoved in a folder hidden amongst other things because I didn’t want to share my writing with anybody.
I was purely an emotional writer. My writing continued through a roller coaster of highs and lows. As time went by, from time to time I shared them with my mom. I know that she was thankful that I read them to her (though the darkness in many may have concerned her--she never said).
It was in high school when it was pounded into me that we need to memorize and dissect poems in order to learn what the poet meant. Poetry was not much of a comfort during this time because my poems were not sonnets. Nor did they rhyme. I thought I was doing it all wrong and not understanding it at all. My poems were no longer worthy, though nobody told me this. Ever.
In January 2019, I was introduced to the Austin Clubhouse. I felt shattered by the despair that comes with mental health diagnoses. It was here that I found a community of people who did not judge and where there was no stigma. A couple of weeks later, my life with poetry began to bloom again. It happened during my first Poetry as a Tool for Wellness session. I felt loosened. I began to find my voice again while in my third decade. I began to feel a release and relief that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I learned that I could write any way that I wanted. We did not have to figure out what the author may have intended. We were invited to share how the poems made us feel! Sharing is exactly what my peers and I did. This became easier because I grew to become more confident.
I was shocked when I was asked if I would like to become a facilitator. Did they see something in me that I had lost? I was given a manual and found it easy to follow when I co-facilitated with my mentor, Cathey Capers. I soon became an IPM-certified peer facilitator, facilitating on my own which I continue to do at the Austin Clubhouse. When the Pandemic hit, I helped launch a very successful virtual platform. Very quickly I began to train new peer facilitators from all around the world! People came from Beijing, Cairo, Australia, England, Canada, and all around the United States. I just finished a training series with chaplains from two children’s hospitals in Dallas, Texas. What an incredible series we had!
This program allows you to facilitate in-person and online. I can tell you without hesitation that people say that we create a very brave space for people to feel vulnerable. This comes from people who have attended other writing groups or poetry circles. I believe it is because everything is by invitation. We invite people into each stage of the process and if they do not want to share in the discussion or if they do not want to share their poem that is okay. We hold a seat for silence. Being able to watch and see the depth of people’s connection from the beginning of the series through the end is very affirming. People are always sad when we come to a close.
I am passionate about sharing PTW with everyone! We can show you how easy it is to use it and to share it with your community!
Registration is now open for the summer series. To read more and register, click here.