Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Residential Week 1: Authenticity

Group Objective: To explore the power of authenticity as a recovery tool and create a safe space for clients to share deeply in a supportive environment.


Key Teaching Points: 

People often fear that if they show their true self they will be judged, criticized, or abandoned. This group is intended to create a reparative experience by demonstrating the closeness people most often feel in the presence of truly authentic sharing.

Materials Needed: Handout, whiteboard or flipchart, markers

Reading from Conscious Recovery: 

How many times have you felt obligated to respond positively when someone says, “Hi, how are you?” Many of us answer “Great!” or “Blessed!” or “Awesome!” even when we’re not feeling any of those things. That’s a surface example of what many of us feel internally: that what’s important is to look good on the outside, to hide our suffering. We sometimes feel it’s an act of weakness to be honest and talk about what’s truly happening. This kind of inauthenticity is at the root of addiction. The strategies we use for hiding, for keeping secrets, for avoiding honesty, can lead to addictive behaviors. One of the root causes of addiction, as we saw in Part 1, is toxic shame, and shame needs inauthenticity to survive. It needs secrecy and silence. The addiction that inauthenticity creates can create chaos in your life and the lives of others, and it can even kill you. As Brené Brown stated in her groundbreaking book, The Gifts of Imperfection: “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Even when we’re coming out of addiction, often we’re still hiding, we’re not ready to be wholly ourselves, to honor the full range of who and what we are with others, or even with ourselves. Many people I work with who are entering recovery will say things like, “If you really knew me, you could not possibly love me.” That’s toxic shame, which can lead to separation and can create the cycle of addiction. On a spiritual level, though, recovery calls us to be authentic, to bring our whole self into the room. We experience a deeper healing when we’re not so caught up in the fear of “looking bad” or in the desire to “look good.”

Residential: Week 1 Group Outline Authenticity

(10 minutes) Meditation

(10 minutes) Check-in: Everyone states their name and says one thing about authenticity.

Review Shared Agreements

  • One Person Speaks at a Time

  • Confidentiality

  • Share the Air

  • No “Fixing”

  • “I” Statements

  • Feedback Upon Request

    (20 minutes) Group Process (Dyads): Have clients close their eyes. Now say: “Think of a time when you were really authentic, really yourself. How does that feel? What are the sensations in your body? Now, think of a time when you were really inauthentic. How does that feel?” Notice how each of those feel in your body. Have them get with a partner and describe a time when “not being yourself” created challenges or difficulties. (Each person shares while other person listens.)

    (15 minutes) Group Process: (Whiteboard or Flip-chart) Iceberg metaphor. Draw a picture of an iceberg. (Showing that most of the iceberg is “below the waterline.”)

    Teaching Point: All we can see is what is “above” the waterline. What is “below” the water line that we are afraid to show?

Group Brainstorming:

(Write all answers on board or flipchart) Point:

Not everything below the water line is “bad.” There are dreams, goals, etc.

Brief Discussion:

Why are we afraid to be authentic and show people what is below the waterline?

(20 minutes) Group Process: “If You Knew Me…” Ask: “Are you willing to practice authenticity?” Important points:

  • Say: “Only go as deep as you feel safe doing so”

  • You will set the stage by how deep you go in the beginning

  • Get an agreement of confidentiality before the process begins

  • Do not allow any feedback, questions, or comments about what

    people are saying-simply keep the process moving

    Invite participants to come together in a circle. (As close together as they are willing to sit.) You begin the process by saying “If you knew me, you would know__________…” (Tell them something about yourself.) Then, one at a time, everyone in the circle also completes the phrase “If you knew me, you would know__________…” Tell them ahead of time that there will probably be three or four rounds and that you will let them know when it is the final round. The second round is “If you REALLY knew me, you would know__________…” The third round is “If you REALLY, REALLY knew me, you would know__________…”, and so on.

    (5 minutes) Group Discussion: Ask the questions: “Do you feel closer or further away from people in the circle?” and “How do you feel about what you shared?” (Too much…too little, etc.)

    (10 minutes) Closing Process


I like to say that “Ego seeks answers, Spirit asks questions.” A shift happens when we release the need to find definitive answers to our questions about life and the world around us. Have you ever noticed that the primary function of the mind seems to be finding answers? We are trained from a young age that there is a right answer to every question. Our entire educational system is based on memorizing information and being able to regurgitate the answers come test time. In one reality, there is a correct answer to some of life’s questions. However, even in that version of reality, those answers sometimes change based on new information or new ways of seeing the situation. I am reminded of how much our “factual” world has changed over time. Science is continuously revealing how things are not as solid as we once believed.

How willing are we to live with, and in questions, recognizing them as potentially more important than the answers? When we grasp too tightly onto answers, it shuts down our process of inquiry and puts limits on our capacity to understand. Willingness to live in a question opens us up to deeper and greater knowing. It opens us up to infinite possibilities rather than staying stuck in our normal way of seeing things. It allows us to expand beyond our previous limits of comprehension. When we live within a question, we dig deeper into our internal exploration of what’s possible, rather than reaching for an answer that is already known. Living in the question invites us to travel into mystery. Spirit loves the unknown. It loves mystery. The mind is constantly seeking answers. That’s its function. However, the answers it comes up with keep us separate from the truth of who we really are.

An excerpt from Conscious Being

by TJ Woodward