It is important to build a clear and solid container with any group. One of the ways to do this is to create a covenant or agreement at the start of the group, meeting or event. In the case of this training, we are using a covenant that is based on one created by Shalom Mountain Retreat Center.
I see a covenant as the broad strokes that invoke the container and start the process. It should be clear, simple and acts as a first layer of container building. Further agreements, permission, processes and logistics are done after the covenant, and as needed throughout the process.
It is helpful to use a covenant after an initial l ice breaking, or welcome exercise. You want people to feel comfortable and as relaxed as possible.
There are 3 elements:
- I intend goodwill.
- I will stay and remain present (specify stance on substances*).
- I will hold confidence, only telling my own story.
When using a covenant, be sure to:
- Explain the the principles, concepts.
- Discuss and answer any questions.
- Invite each person to say “I accept” or if they can’t agree to specify their modification.
- When new people join the group — take a moment to have them agree to the covenant.
*In NonOrdinary events, we ask people to be present with out substances with the exception of medical needs. It can be helpful to talk this through more with the group, to clarify choice to use vs. medical need. For NonOrdinary retreats, I specify that it is the intention to staying present that is important. If you need support to be able to stay present because of pain or medical need — that is welcome and encouraged. It is important to specify that this with regards to substances such as marijuana, and any prescribed meds such as psychiatric or pain medication are not part of the choice. We encourage people to stay on any medication prescribed by their physicians. If it is more of a habit and a way to stay comfortable with emotions, we ask people to not use any altering substances. It is up to you as facilitator and leader to determine what your policy is, and how you will choose to enforce it.