Living with health and illness groups

speaking, listening, sharing, learning

Whitby Piers and Lighthouse

Photograph by Michael Shaw -

The Group So Far

Margaret Jackson and Peter Leviné have been facilitating these groups for more than ten years, and have drawn participants from Whitby, the Esk Valley villages, Scarborough and it’s surrounding area.

The work evolved out of their growing recognition that people with long term illnesses often shared common difficulties that emerge from the various impacts they experience and endure, combined with a frequent lack of opportunity to express and consider these in any real way.

The groups were originally conceived as an opportunity to open up the real narratives that people have around their illnesses, and the validation of the lived experience we all have in managing our health.

During the last ten years, we have come to learn the importance of developing authenticity to oneself and to others, and how this is enhanced by the safe sharing and validation of sometimes painful and difficult narratives.  Everybody has well established skills and experience of managing their health, and the groups help to identify and reframe these experiences to achieve improved outcomes.

Following a pilot group, we applied for and obtained funding from the PCT to run subsequent groups.  Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG have recently agreed to continue funding the project.  Evaluation to date shows that participants report improved functioning and well-being.  Those with serious illnesses have had a significant reduction in emergency hospital admissions, in the year following the group. Click here for details about our evaluation.

Examples of feedback from participants include:

“Your course has made a big difference to my life. I am enjoying my life now, and coping better with my bad days.

“This has been the best ten weeks for me. I thank you for giving me hope, confidence and inspiration. I can lift my head high and have a life ahead of me. Thank you so much for making me feel myself again.”

Our growing confidence in this model of group work, and feedback from participants, has led us to see a potentially wider application for this approach.

Our groups will now explore wellness and illness in all of us, and welcome participants for whom this is an important issue, including carers, whether or not they suffer from serious or long term health issues.  Changing health is a concern for most people, and the opportunity to properly explore one’s own and others’ real experiences of this can be difficult to find, but offers a chance to improve well-being for all.