Facilitation Styles (John Heron)

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Ways of facilitating and helping people. Explanation of Facilitation Styles of John Heron. (1975)

Facilitation StylesWhat is the Facilitation Styles model? Description

The Facilitation Styles framework by John Heron distinguishes between 6 possible means of analyzing a range of possible therapeutic interactions between a client and a helper. Heron defines an intervention as an identifiable piece of verbal and/or non-verbal behavior that is part of the practitioner's service to the client (2001).

Origin of the Facilitation Styles Framework. History

John Heron (b. 1928) is a pioneer in the creation of a participatory research method in the social sciences. Heron is known for his work on intervention styles.

An early model (1975) by Heron was called the Six Category Intervention Analysis or Six Facilitative Interventions and had six facilitation styles in two main categories:

  1. Authoritative Interventions. The practitioner takes a more dominant or assertive role, taking responsibility for and on behalf of the client.
    1. Prescriptive Intervention. Directs client by giving advice and direction.
    2. Informative Intervention. Seeks to give knowledge, information and meaning to the client, by giving instruction.
    3. Confronting Intervention. Challenges behavior or attitude of the client by direct feedback.
  2. Facilitative Interventions. The practitioner seeks to enable clients to become more autonomous and take more responsibility for themselves.
    1. Cathartic Intervention. Helps client to express and overcome powerful thoughts or emotions. Empathizes.
    2. Catalytic Intervention. Helps client to reflect, discover and learn. Asks questions.
    3. Supportive Intervention. Builds up client confidence. Praises, values and supports the client.

Later Heron refines his model to 6 dimensions and 3 decision-modes, and calls it: the Facilitation Styles Model. (Figure).

Usage of Facilitation Styles. Applications

Strengths of the Facilitation Styles Model. Benefits

  • Creates awareness of current and possible helping styles.
  • Framework to communicate and discuss teaching or consulting styles.
  • Can be used at both individual and group level.

Limitations of the Facilitation Styles Framework. Disadvantages

  • To be able to change in facilitation style towards autonomous modes requires shifts in behavior, values and skills.
  • From lecturer to facilitator, from expert to mentor, from control to risk, from structure to ambiguity.
  • Not all people will be ready for advanced ways of help. "I just need you to tell me what to do now".

Book: John Heron - Six category intervention analysis. Human Potential Research Project. University of Surrey (1975) -

Book: John Heron - The Facilitator's Handbook (1999) -

Book: John Heron - Helping the Client: A Creative, Practical Guide (2001) -

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