How do workshop facilitators create a space where strangers can come together to safely share their experiences of life’s transitions? In other words, what makes a space safe?

 Dr. Ryan Hamilton (Psychology, University of New Brunswick), his students, and I explore these questions in a recent publication: “A critical analysis of the delivery of a psychosocial workshop for cancer survivors with lymphedema.”

We found that workshop participants appreciated the facilitators’ modelling of open and supportive behaviour, as well as the use of storytelling, humour, and self-disclosure – both facilitators and participants openly shared experiences. The fostering of participant engagement and connections was also discussed in the positive responses to the workshops. Participants bonded while they shared stories and experiences, creating an environment of “we” and “us” that supported the safe space. In addition, participants felt that the facilitators (Ryan Hamilton and Roanne Thomas) were responsive to their needs and willing to modify the workshops as participants suggested.

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