© melissalesterlcsw.com 2023
Atlanta Women’s Coming Out Later in Life Support Group
Facilitated by Melissa Lester, LCSW
In 2015, after months of searching for appropriate resources for several female clients who were curious and questioning their ‘not so straight’ sexual orientation, the Atlanta Women’s Coming Out Later in Life Support Group was started. Our first meeting was standing room only with over 13 women in my office, which was designed to accommodate 6 comfortably.
Since then, we have met regularly, other than a lengthy break during the COVID pandemic. We currently meet twice per month – once on SecureVideo and once in-person. Location is shared with attendees only.
We currently have 90+ Metro Atlanta women on our Invitation list. Typically, 5-10 women will attend on any given date. Each meeting is different, with different attendees, different topics and different moods.
This Support Group may be a good fit for you if:
Definition of Our Support Group
This is an ‘Open’ and ‘Ongoing’ Support Group. ‘Open’ means that everyone has been vetted by me, but I only know who will attend on the day
of each Group after attendees have RSVP’d. ‘Ongoing’ means there is no start date or end date to this Group and Invitees are welcome to RSVP and attend anytime.
Depending on your needs, it may be ideal for you to also be in individual therapy while attending Group. I am happy to share some therapist
recommendations with you, or to discuss whether you and I might be a good fit for therapy work.
This Coming Out Later in Life Support Group is not a therapeutic intervention, should not be considered therapy, and does not serve as a substitute for mental health therapy. My role is limited to organizing and holding a safe, judgment free space, and facilitating community building and resource sharing. In this role, I do not offer medical, legal or clinical advice or treatment of any kind, including but not limited to, Mental Health Treatment. This Support Group is not a substitute for medical, legal, health, mental health, ethical, substance abuse or any other professional advice or treatment.
If you are currently in therapy, under the care of a mental health professional or otherwise under mental health counsel, you should notify your provider or doctor before your participation, as issues may arise. Melissa Lester, LCSW shall not be held liable or responsible for any damage you may suffer as a result of failing to seek professional advice.
Our Women’s Coming Out Later in Life Support Group is intended as an adjunct to therapy or treatment. It is neither therapy nor ‘treatment’ and your participation in this group does not establish a therapist/client relationship with me.
Mission and Purpose(s)
Our Annual Calendar is posted here. Please mark the dates on your calendar.
1. On the day of Group, you will receive an email invitation with details. If you do not receive an email invitation, it means something has prevented me from holding Group that day.
2. Simply RSVP by emailing me back by no later than 3 pm that day. If you are requesting a fee waiver due to financial hardship or confidentiality
concerns, you must request it each time you RSVP.
3. You will receive a unique, one-time, encrypted link prior to 3:15 pm. This includes a Payment ($25) link. If you have requested a fee waiver, there should be no payment feature on your link.
4. Please use the Payment feature on the link whether we are meeting via SecureVideo or In Person. I do not collect fees in person.
5. We are all looking forward to meeting you – and want you to know that pretty much everyone is terrified the first time they attend. We get it. Promise.
Group Guidelines and Disclaimers – Revised 5/20/2023
Support/Peer/Community Group Definition
Please note this Group is a support/community Group facilitated by a licensed therapist. This Group is not a therapy group and participating in this Group’s meetings does not confer or imply a therapist/client relationship between you and Melissa Lester, LCSW during your participation in this Group or during the time in between Group meetings, whether we have contact or not. This Group intends to create a safe space, foster individual growth and encourage the cultivation of community.
Respect for Others
You agree to value and respect diversity of thought, expression, experience, religion, faith, ability, knowledge, awareness, education, ethnicity, race, culture, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, financial means, occupation and any other differences that may be shared implicitly or explicitly among Group members during or outside of Group.
For online meetings, please make sure you are in a private room with no one else present. No one should be able to see your computer screen or hear your audio at any time. For in person meetings, you guarantee not to disclose the physical location of any in person group meetings or events.
We do not share any details of someone else’s story, whether they are members of this Group or not. This includes first name, occupation, circumstance, ‘just an interesting story,” etc. These details are often enough for that person to be recognized by others and by themselves.
Recording, taping or photographing of any Support Group meeting or member is strictly prohibited without their signed and dated consent. Your attendance at any Group meeting indicates that you agree to not record, recreate, or republish any aspect of this Support Group or the personal information shared as it pertains to this Group, any member of this Group past or present, in any medium, in perpetuity. This guideline is specific to attendance in this Group and is a requirement of attendees, regardless of any state laws that may contradict this guideline.
An Important Note About Anonymity, Confidentiality & Safety
The presence of others in Group makes it impossible for me to guarantee your privacy, confidentiality and/or safety. In addition, it is possible that you may encounter others in Group you know directly or indirectly. If you have any concerns about being recognized or about your confidentiality or physical safety, please speak with me about your concerns.
Group is held in an intentionally relaxed atmosphere. We generally start a few minutes late to give everyone time to arrive. Timeliness is appreciated, but there is no judgment for being a few minutes late. Life is stressful enough.
Please remember to share any valuable resources you have come across and to review/share the W2W Resource list.
I encourage you to connect with Group members outside of group. Activities that take place outside our official Group meetings should be designed to protect everyone’s privacy, confidentiality and safety. I recommend not posting locations publicly and only using HIPAA compliant and encrypted technology platforms. It is up to you whether or not to disclose any personal relationships that develop between you and other Group attendees. Please keep in mind that personal relationships among Group member’s can have multiple consequences for you, the other member and our Group. One potential consequence is that the Group may become emotionally unsafe or less private for you or the other person in the relationship. If you would like to discuss these issues with me, please feel free to reach out.
Emotional and physical safety are our very first priorities. Lives, marriages, jobs, children/custody and other risks are very real for some Group members. Absolute confidentiality is the best way we can keep each other safe. Never share your individual one-time link with anyone. Never share the physical location of any group member, meeting, event or activity. If you have any safety concerns whatsoever, immediately report them to your therapist, the other person’s therapist and/or call 911.
This Support Group Agreement Form is governed by and interpreted under the laws of the State of Georgia. Any action brought by any party against Melissa Lester, LCSW or Social Work Supervision, Inc. shall first be submitted to mediation, and if not resolved,
shall be brought in courts within DeKalb or Fulton County, GA.
Attendance At Will
You acknowledge that all participation in this Support Group is at will. You understand that you may attend or not attend as you see fit. In addition, you understand that you may request to be removed or be removed by the facilitator Melissa Lester, LCSW from the COLIL Invitation list at any time.
By requesting to be added to this COLIL Support Group email list and/or attending one of our meetings, you acknowledge that you have read, understand and agree to all of the foregoing. In addition, you agree that you support both the letter and the spirit of these guidelines and agree to both take and refrain from any actions that reasonable person would to ensure the safety and well-being of all Support Group members.
We hope to see you soon 🙂
© melissalesterlcsw.com 2023