Experiential events - Self help events prepared by PWS for PWS

by Benny Ravid
from Israel

AMBI - Israeli Stuttering Association is organizing a new kind of event " for people who stutter (PWS) which we call "experiential events. These are self help events held every other month for about a year and are quite successful among the PWS in Israel. These experiential events are prepared by a special team of PWS. The preparations usually starts several weeks before the event. Each experiential event is devoted to a specific subject and is held in a self help fashion. This means that all the participants take an active part in all that happens. There is also a group leader whose purpose is to instruct the participants about how to perform the prepared processes. The primary difference between experiential events and typical self help meetings is that experiential events are bigger in terms of number of participants and are held less frequently.

Experiential event for PWS - Description and Visualization

To visualize an experiential event, we'll introduce one such event whose subject was: "Do I respect myself enough?".

The group leader is a different person for each event, and is by no means one that is "an expert." In our experiential event meetings the group leader is a PWS,, one of the team members who prepared the event. His role is merely to instruct the participants on how to perform the processes prepared by the team. In fact he is one of the participants and most of the time he is doing whatever all other participants are doing.

At the beginning the participants were seated in a large circle. Each participant introduced himself, by telling something about his life, his stuttering etc. This self introduction is a kind of "ice breaker".

Then the first experiential process began. Participants were asked to give compliments to the group leader. Here people had an opportunity to experience the feeling of giving a compliment to another person (sometimes that is not easy at all).

In the next process all the participants were asked to walk around the room and to meet each other. For each encounter people were asked to exchange compliments. By getting or giving a complement, something happens to the respect we are giving to ourselves and to others. This experience was typically funny and also embarrassing for some of the participants.

Then in the following process people were asked to split into groups of five. In the group the participants discussed two topics: "What makes me respect myself more" and "What makes me respect myself less".

Later the participants left the small groups and came back to sit in one large circle. While seated in the large circle they were invited to talk about whatever they wanted to share..

Here the evening came to an end and the group leader declared that the event was finished. However, most of the participants didn't left the room. They went on, continuing to talk and share.

Up to now we have had experiential event meetings about subjects like: "Do I say what I want to", "Stuttering on the first date", "Stuttering and my family" and others.. One such event was presented as a workshop at the 19th NSA conference in Anaheim, CA (June 26-30, 2002).

Participants reactions

Here are some of the feedback we have gotten from our Experiential events participants:

  1. It gives a "stage" to speak in front of people.
  2. It gives an opportunity to express myself and my views.
  3. It enables me to hear and to learn from the experience of other PWS.
  4. It gives an opportunity to know other PWS better.
  5. It is a continuation of self help group.
  6. It is a wonderful meeting place.
  7. It is a place of being together, a place of love and understanding.
  8. It is a place of fun.
Difference between experiential events and self help group meetings.

In general the difference between experiential events and self help group meetings is about the same as the difference between a regional meeting and a small local meetings. Experiential events are bigger in terms of number of participants. In fact an experiential meetings may be (and in fact typically are) a meeting of people from several self help groups. Experiential events are held less frequently then self help meeting. In Israel experiential meetings are held every other month. Self help group meets are held every other week. The organization of experiential meeting is more complex. Experiential meetings are preplanned weeks ahead by a special team of PWS. No such preparations are typically done at our self help group meetings. There is a need on experiential meeting to have a group leader that instructs the participants at each stage about what to do.

Experiential events are not a substitute for self help group meetings. On the contrary these two kinds of self help activities support each other.

Experiential events support the self help group meetings in many ways: Experiential events provide ideas about what to do in self help group meetings. They also encourage formation of self help groups for PWS, provide PWS an opportunity to exchange experience and ideas.and give the self help group members new challenges to express themselves. In fact self help group members are called upone to be members of the teams that prepare the experiential events.

On the other hand the self help groups support the experiential events by participants to the experiential events, providing members and ideas to the team that prepares the experiential event.

According to the reactions we have received, the experiential events for PWS are quite successful.

August 13, 2002