The lifestyle Matters programme comprises of three separate but inter-related elements:
A weekly two-hour group meeting provides the opportunity for participants to acquire new information, to share experiences and to test out ideas through active experimentation. The benefits of group-work have been well documented in the literature. In Lifestyle Matters the group is more than a mechanism for the sharing of information. It provides an opportunity for reflection, for interpersonal learning and for the development of a sense of purpose. Here participants are encouraged to recognise their own resourcefulness and to appreciate the resource of other people within the group.
Within the session didactic teaching may take place, for example the learning of a technique or the provision of information about the impact of a particular condition or activity on health. However this is always accompanied by discussion and sharing of how this relates to their life and to current coping mechanisms. An opportunity to put new learning into practice through the rehearsal of skills is an important function of the group.
Within our research participants have spoken of the value of the group in offering support, developing new friendships and providing members with a sense of validation. The group has also enabled individuals to develop new roles as well as acting as the opportunity to act as role models to others.
In parallel to group sessions the Lifestyle Matters programme includes the opportunity for participants to meet individually with facilitators. These one to one sessions occur less frequently but are integral to the intervention, providing the opportunity for building of trust and deepening therapeutic relationships, individual goal setting, the provision of follow up information and the customisation of future group sessions to ensure that individual needs are being met. The complexity of people’s lives cannot be under-estimated. Individual sessions help to address the issues individuals face and enable the programme to be tailored to meet the needs of individuals.
Visits or outings
The final element of Lifestyle Matters is a series of group visits and outings. Group visits and outings should be included at regular intervals throughout the programme and are intended to offer participants with the opportunity to test out ideas, rehearse skills, step outside their comfort zone and in doing so transform discussions that have occurred within group and individual sessions into a lived experience.