426 Mental Health
➤ These exercises
are most often done
in groups, but they
can also be used by
just 2 people.
➤ Some women may
feel more comfortable
listening as they work
with their hands—for
example, as they
weave or sew.
Exercises for learning how to help
Most members of a group need to understand what a
helping relationship is and what makes it work before they
can really help one another with a mental health problem.
These exercises can help:
1. Sharing experiences of support. To become more aware
of what support is, the leader can ask members to tell
a personal story in which they have received or given
support. Then the leader asks questions like: What kind
of help was it? How did it help? What are the similarities
and differences between the stories? This can help the
group come up with general ideas about what it means to
support and help another person.
Or the leader can pose a story of someone with a
problem—for example, a woman whose husband drinks
too much and beats her. She becomes withdrawn and
pretends nothing is wrong, but no longer participates in
the community. Then the group can discuss: How could
we as a group help her? How can she help herself?
2. Practicing active listening. In this exercise the group
divides into pairs. One partner talks about a topic for
about 5 to 10 minutes.
The other partner
interrupting or saying
anything, except to
encourage the speaker
to say more. The
listener shows that
she is listening by her
attitude and by the way
she moves her body.
Then the partners
When the partners are finished, they think about how
well it worked. They ask each other questions like: Did you
feel listened to? What difficulties did you have? Then the
leader begins a general discussion among everyone about the
attitudes that best show listening and concern. The leader can
also emphasize that listening sometimes means talking: asking
questions, sharing experiences, or saying something that makes
the other person feel understood. It may also mean admitting
that you have tried but still do not understand.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012