Group Guidelines

Participant Agreement


History

In 2015, after months of searching for appropriate resources for several of my female clients who were curious and questioning their ‘not so straight’ sexual orientation, I began this Support Group in Midtown Atlanta. Our first meeting was standing room only with over 13 women in my office, which was designed to accommodate 3 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/ZOOM and once in-person. Location is shared with attendees only. 

We currently have 80-90 Metro Atlanta women on our Invitation list. Typically, 5-10 women will attend on any given date. Each meeting is different, attended by different women, with topics and moods running the gamut. It’s never the same group twice!


Definition

Our Open Support Group is intended as an adjunct to therapy or treatment. It is neither therapy nor ‘treatment’ and your participation in this support group does not establish a therapist/client relationship with me. 

This is an ‘Open’ and ‘Ongoing’ support group. Open means that although I have vetted everyone who receives an invitation, I never know who will attend on any given day. Ongoing means that there is no end- date and no start date and Invitees (only) are welcome to drop in anytime.

Depending on your current needs, it may be ideal for you to also be in therapy with your own individual therapist. 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, facilitating community building and resource sharing. In this role, I do not offer medical, legal or clinical advice or treatment.This Support Group is not a substitute for medical, legal, health, mental health, 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.


Mission and Purpose(s)

  • Welcoming all attendees into a safe, supportive, respectful space to be curious in.
  • Getting comfortable in our own skin, no matter what that looks like or how long it takes.
  • Meeting women who ‘get it’ – no explanation required. And yes, you will make friends!
  • Discovering the questions and opening up to the messy (and frustrating) path to clarity.
  • Supporting each other in navigating the many layers of exploration that come with this process.
  • Sharing of information, resources, events, and connecting, connecting, connecting, connecting.
  • This Support Group is open to all adult women (residing in GA) who are questioning their sexual orientation. No one is turned away for financial reasons. See Meeting Process below.


A Note About Anonymity, Confidentiality & Safety

The presence of others in Group makes it impossible for me to guarantee your privacy, confidentiality and safety. In addition, participation in this Support Group may result in you encountering others in Group you may know directly or indirectly. If you have any concerns about being recognized or about your confidentiality or physical safety, please speak with me immediately.


Meeting Process (ZOOM & In Person)

Our Annual Calendar is posted at MelissaLesterLCSW.com. Please mark the dates on your calendar.

  1. On the day of Group, you will receive an email invitation with details.
  2. Simply RSVP by emailing me back by 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 use, encrypted link prior to 3:15 pm. The link includes a Payment ($25) feature.
  4. Please use this Link and Payment feature whether we are meeting via ZOOM or 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. Sometimes also the second, third and fourth time. We get it.Promise.


Group Guidelines and Disclaimers

Support/Peer/Community Group

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 creates a safe space, fosters individual growth and encourages the cultivation of community.

Respect for Others

I value and agree to 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.

Privacy 

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 to not disclose the physical location of any in person group meetings or events.

Confidentiality

Please remember we do not share any details of someone else's story – first name, occupation, circumstance or just an interesting story is often enough for that person to be recognized by others and by themselves.


Recordings

Recording, taping or photographing of any Support Group meeting or member is strictly prohibited. Your signature on this consent form 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, in any medium, in perpetuity.


Timeliness

Group is held in an intentionally relaxed atmosphere. We generally start a few minutes late to give everyone time to arrive in a relaxed manner.


Resources

Please remember to share any valuable resources you have come across and to review/share the W2W Resource list posted on my Coming Out Later in Life page.


Community

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.


Safety

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.


Dispute Resolution

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 County, GA.


Attendance At Will

My participation in this Support Group is at will. I understand I may attend or not attend as I see fit. In addition, I understand that I may request to be removed from the COLIL Invitation list at any time.


Attestation

I have read, understood and agreed to all of the foregoing. I support both the letter and the spirit of these guidelines and agree to both take and refrain from any actions that a reasonable person would to ensure the safety and well-being of my fellow Support Group members.

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