Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0221, September 13, 2005 | 7,000 Subscribers....

Dear friends,

This week's article, "Debriefing a Traumatic Situation," was submitted by Jo Nelson of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). She developed this piece shortly after 911 to help people deal with the trauma that followed. With the advent of the current trauma occurring in the southern United States, this is a good time to review approaches to helping people through these kinds of large scale issues, for both those directly involved and for those affected vicariously.

The set of questions used in this article is one of 20 sets of such questions contained in our most recent publication, "The Facilitator Questions Collection." See details on this new ebook at the bottom of this issue. Note that this collection has been added as yet another of the many features that comes with membership. Consider joining to receive this and a host of other benefits that continue to grow over time, and to receive our introductory price that expires this Friday. News

  • The Facilitator's Questions Collection. This 35-page collection contains 20 sets of questions grouped according to the many themes upon which groups typically focus. Click here for details.
  • Introductory membership price for ends this Friday. Our introductory prices of $99/yr. for the Basic membership and $249 for the Premium membership increase this Friday by $50/year. Click here to view all features and benefits of membership and sign up now at the reduced price. Also, Bonus Gifts are still available for the next few members. Click here and scroll to bottom of features list for details.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis


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Red Cross Disaster Relief

The Point

Debriefing a Traumatic Situation
  Help people speak their truth, heal their wounds, and move on.

Group Process Skill

Tragedy is like strong acid -- it dissolves away all but the very gold of truth.
--D. H. Lawrence, British Author--

Large-scale trauma seems to be on the rise lately. People involved, even those not directly involved, need to talk about and process these events in order to move on with their lives. The following questions are based on the work of Jo Nelson, of the Institute of Cultural Affairs, adapted for use after 9/11, and were found to be helpful in working through collective trauma. They are also relevant for people vicariously experiencing dismay, horror, disbelief, and shock at the devastation and suffering of people in affected areas.

Pose these questions after the occurrence of a traumatic incident where people are shaken and need to talk about what has happened. The outcomes of these discussions give people the opportunity to talk about their personal experiences of the trauma to move from a state of shock, to coming to terms with the situation. This processing helps them to face reality and begin to deal with it productively.


Example opening statement: This event has shaken all of us. Letís take a little time to reflect on whatís happened, so we can come to terms with it. Iím going to ask some questions that will help us gradually process what happened. I ask that you let everyone have their own answers, without interrupting, arguing, or judging what anyone says.

Objective Questions

Imagine you were a video camera recording what you have seen and heard happening since the first events. What actions, words, phrases, objects, and scenes are recorded on your tape? Letís get everything outóthe first events, then everything that has happened sinceóso that we all have as full a picture as possible of what has happened to this point.

Reflective Questions

  • What were your first reactions?
  • What shocked or frightened you most about this incident?
  • What images or previous experiences were triggered for you?
  • How else did you find yourself reacting?

Interpretive Questions

  • What impact has this had on you personally? How are you different now?
  • How we different as a group or as a society as a result of these events?
  • How has our view of the world changed?
  • What might have been some contributing factors to why this happened?
  • What might be some of the underlying issues behind all of this?
  • What might we learn from this?

Decisional Questions

  • What can we do to deal with the situation in the short term?
  • What are some things we can do to begin to deal with the underlying issues and prevent events like this from happening again?
  • What can we do to help each other?

We will undoubtedly continue to reflect on this. If you need help, please be sure to ask for it.

Hints. Some of these questions are difficult to answer, so if there are few spoken answers, donít worry. The very fact of raising these questions and following this flow allows deeper reflection later. It may be helpful to print out the questions for people to take with them for later reflection

About the Author. Jo Nelson CPF, a professional group facilitator with 35 years of global experience, works with ICA Associates in Toronto, Ontario. She can be reached at Her book Art of Focused Conversation for Schools: Over 100 Ways to Guide Clear Thinking and Promote Learning has nearly 200 sample conversations. It can be ordered through the ICA Associates website,


This week, consider how you might employ or include the questions above with any of your groups now or in the future. Please email us your comments.

Book Resource

The Therapist's Emotional Survival: Dealing With the Pain of Exploring Trauma, by Stuart D. Perlman

This book explores the private thoughts of the therapist in response to the patient's inner expressions and how each affects the other over the course of treatment. Stuart Perlman documents his own journey of having treated trauma and sexually abused patients over many years. He details the issues the therapist needs to deal with, the emotional strain, how the therapist's own traumas and history shape his behavior and intrude into the therapeutic process, and how he and others he has supervised have come to manage this difficult process and maintain emotional health. Dr. Perlman illustrates this with powerful revealing of his thoughts, dreams, memories, history, personal psychotherapy, and emotional reactions.

In the Spotlight

The Facilitator Questions Collection

A question can alter any circumstance.
--Marilee C. Goldberg

One of the greatest tools we have as group workers is "the question." A well-crafted question, dropped at just the right time, can shift the course of action in significant ways. As facilitators, coaches, trainers, and consultants, the act of asking questions places the power and responsibility back into the hands of your client, an important action necessary to counteract the tendency of group participants to look to you for answers. Answers, while useful, are inherently limiting. New answers, in time, take on the burden of the ones they replaced. A state of inquiry opens us to possibilities. The longer we reside in the question, the more we discover. Hence the decision to “live in the question,” offers great reward. As group workers, I believe this to be our challenge and one we are privileged to model for our groups.

This 35-page collection contains 20 sets of questions grouped according to the many themes upon which groups typically focus. Use these lists in preparation for working with a group or use them as catalysts for the development of your own questions. You can put this practical guide to use right away with your groups without hours of study and contemplation.

License Rights. Owners of this guide are granted a license to copy and distribute this material in their own trainings, workshops, and groups. Basically, you can do anything you want with this guide
except sell it yourself.

Table of Contents


Types Of Questions

Six Serving Men: Open-Ended Questions
Bloom's Taxonomy
Five Types of Questions

  • Focusing Questions
  • Questions to Clarify Group Understanding
  • Questions to Facilitate Commitment
  • Questions to Scope a Project
  • Problem-Solving Questions
  • Data Gathering Questions
  • Questions to clarify and focus on the problem
  • Organizational/Process Questions.
  • Decision-Making Questions
  • Questions to Assess Solutions
  • Questions to Stimulate Creative Thinking
  • Planning Questions
  • Questions to Facilitate Change
  • Questions to Evaluate Results
  • Questions To Improve Teamwork
  • Questions to Facilitate Participation
  • Questions to Identify Group Dysfunction
  • Debriefing Questions
  • Metaphor-Making Questions
  • Intervention Questions
  • Debriefing a Traumatic Situation
  • Questions to ask Yourself to Form Better Questions
  • Questions to Improve Your Facilitation Skills

    Cost of this Guide: $29.95

Click here to order and download now

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