FAQ about AHP Support Groups
The AIDS Health Project (AHP) offers nearly 20 weekly support groups for people living with HIV or AIDS, or for gay and bisexual men who are HIV negative. These include drop-in, time-limited, and ongoing groups. The primary aim of AHP groups is to provide an environment in which members can give and receive emotional support. Some groups are also focused on helping members achieve goals they have set for themselves as a result of being in the group.
What’s the difference between a drop-in group, a time-limited group, and an ongoing group?
Drop-in groups happen every week, but do not require weekly attendance and do not require a formal intake. Time-limited groups meet weekly for a certain number of weeks—typically 14. Ongoing groups are held weekly, often continue indefinitely, and generally require a 3-month commitment. Time-limited and ongoing groups require registration and screening interviews (please see next question for more about this).
What if I’m interested in joining an AHP support group?
If you’re interested in a drop-in group, you may show up at the time of the group, or you may call AHP at 415-476-3902 and ask to speak to the triage staff person for more details. If you’re interested in a time-limited or ongoing group, AHP’s triage staff person can provide more details and schedule an “assessment” appointment. During this appointment, you’ll meet with a counselor who will guide you through our client registration system, and discuss your interest in a group and your personal history. The counselor may then recommend you for the waitlist for a group and/or for other services, such as individual counseling. AHP’s Groups and Workshops Coordinator or a staff group facilitator may then meet with you to determine if a group is a good match.
How long are the waitlists for groups?
Waits can range from a couple of weeks to several months depending on a number of factors, including: the current demand for the group, the number of openings, and your availability. While on the waitlist, you will receive monthly telephone reminders that you are on the waitlist.
When do time-limited or ongoing groups meet?
Time-limited and ongoing groups are held on weekdays during the day and on weekday evenings, except Fridays. Meetings typically last 90 minutes to two hours.
Is there a fee for attending groups?
Groups are provided at no charge to members; however, donations are welcome and donation envelopes are available in all group meeting rooms.
How many people are in each group?
Time-limited and ongoing groups typically have between 6–10 members. Drop-in group attendance varies weekly, and is usually limited to 12 people
For time-limited and ongoing groups, is it OK if I miss some meetings?
We ask participants to make group attendance a priority, and to maintain consistent attendance. In time-limited groups, if a member knows beforehand that he or she is going to miss more than two group meetings, that person would not be matched to that group.
When I get into a time-limited or ongoing group, is everyone else in the group new?
Generally not. In ongoing groups, most members have been in them for some time. The 14-week groups, often include at least some people who recently completed a “cycle” of the group and want to continue in another cycle. That is, for 14-week groups, after a group ends, we generally start another cycle of that group on the same night, and people who have completed the previous cycle sometimes choose to continue in the new cycle.
What goes on during group meetings?
Each group meeting—whether drop-in, time-limited or ongoing--starts with a check in, during which members briefly share what’s going on for them, what they hope to get from group that night, and whether they have a particular topic they want to address. After check-in, groups decide what topics to cover. In most groups, there’s a 10-minute break about halfway through the meeting. Near the end of the meeting, members “check out” by briefly reflecting on the night’s experience.
In time-limited groups, time is generally spent in the first week reviewing group guidelines, finding out what members want to get from the group, and brainstorming topics that members would like to discuss during the course of the group. In some groups, members identify specific goals they want to achieve as a result of being in group, and members at various times will revisit these goals and evaluate their progress toward achieving them.
Who facilitates groups?
Most groups have two facilitators who may be staff counselors; graduate-level intern counselors; or volunteers. Volunteers are often non-professionals who have been trained by AHP as facilitators and are supervised by and have regular communication with the AHP Groups & Workshops Program Coordinator regarding groups and group members. Facilitators include men and women who may be HIV-positive or HIV-negative, gay or straight. Facilitators are representatives of the AHP and are legally and ethically required to alert AHP staff to important issues such as thoughts of depression and/or suicide, or other emotional crises. Any information about groups or individual members is considered confidential by both facilitators and AHP.
What’s the role of facilitators?
Facilitators’ responsibilities are to help create a safe environment for everyone in the group, help keep the group on track, help manage conflict and differences among group members, involve as much of the group as possible, and help the group maintain Group Agreements. The facilitators do not function as members of a group, but they do participate in the check-in portion of each group meeting.
Do groups follow a set of group agreements, or guidelines?
Yes. All groups follow a list of agreements created to make the group an emotionally “safe” space for members to be able to talk about their concerns. These agreements address topics such as the need for members to maintain the confidentiality of other members’ identities and what is said in group, the need be respectful of other members, and the fact that AHP is a fragrance- and scent-free environment. In drop-in groups, facilitators review these agreements at the start of each group; in time-limited and ongoing groups, new members sign a list of group agreements.
Are group members allowed to have relationships with each other outside of group?
Group members may have friendships with one another. However, dating, sexual, roommate, or work relationships between members in the same group are not permitted because, among other reasons, such situations can be harmful to the group’s ability to support each member.
What do I do if I have more questions?
Please call 415-476-3902 and ask for the triage staff person. You may also check out our website at www.ucsf-ahp.org.
What if I’m interested in joining an HIV-positive support group?
If you’re interested in a drop-in group, you can either call AHP to learn more about the group, or just show up at the starting time of the group. If you’re interested in an ongoing, time-limited group, you must call AHP to schedule an intake appointment. During this appointment, you’ll meet with an intake worker who will guide you through the process of our client registration system. At that point, the intake worker may refer you to a clinical assessment with an AHP clinician or to the Groups Program for possible placement on the waitlist for an AHP group. For more information or to schedule an intake appointment, please call 415-476-3902.
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How long are the waitlists for an ongoing group?
Waits can range from a couple of weeks to several months based on a number of factors, including: the current demand for the group(s), the number of openings, and your availability. While on the waitlist, you will receive monthly telephone reminders that you are on the waitlist and that you may attend relevant drop-in groups.
When do ongoing groups meet?
Ongoing groups are held Monday through Thursdays during the daytime and in the evening. Meetings typically last 90 minutes to two hours.
When I get into an ongoing group, is everyone else in the group new?
Generally not. In most cases, you’re entering a group that has been continuing for some time and has an opening. An opening happens when a member leaves a group.
What goes on during ongoing or drop-in group meetings?
Who facilitates groups?
Each group meeting—whether ongoing or drop-in—starts with a check in, during which members share what’s going on for them, what they hope to get from group that day, and whether they have a particular topic they want to address. After check-in, groups decide what topics to cover. In most groups, there’s a 10-minute break about halfway through the meeting. Near the end of the meeting, members “check out” by briefly reflecting on the night’s experience.
Most groups have two co-facilitators who may be trained volunteers, AHP staff clinicians, or trained, graduate-level intern counselors. Volunteers are peers (not professionals) who have been trained to facilitate groups and are supervised by REACH program staff. Facilitators include men and women, who may be HIV-positive or HIV-negative, gay or straight.
Do you encourage group members to become friends?
Yes, if members are interested in this opportunity. However, dating between members in the same group is not permitted because, among other reasons, such situations are almost invariably harmful to the group’s ability to support each member.
What do I do if I have more questions?
Please call 415-476-3902.
Why Don’t We Use E-Mail?