Written by: Claire Pfarr

August 31, 2023

We’re delighted to bring you the next interview in our Q&A series with Circles facilitators. We’re so lucky to work with so many amazing people who bring such a breath of fresh air into all the different groups on the Circles app. Today we’re excited to introduce you to Leanzar “Zar” Stockley. 

Q: We’d love to hear a little bit about your journey and what brought you to Circles. 

A: Well, I was a mental health professional working as a program director for a mental health company here in Las Vegas that let me go in 2019. That really launched me into my own practice, while doing a variety of counseling and coaching. Private practice was great, but I was looking for other things to add onto that and possibly some support groups to run. It was around that time that I saw an ad for Circles. It sounded like a great opportunity so I applied to be a support group leader and they reached out and brought me on board. I’ve been here since March of last year and it’s great. 

Q: You host a variety of groups on Circles. Do you have any that are your favorite?

A: I lead both grief and relationships groups. To be honest with you, I can’t say that I have a favorite. They’re all really my favorite. But I guess I think I really lean towards groups that have more of a general theme than a really specific one, and that’s because there can kind of be a lot of crossover. In those broader groups, I find myself saying a lot of things and sort of facilitating the same regardless of what the title of the group is. But when things are too specific, it makes it very hard to bring variety to the group and to really expand the conversation. If the topic is really deeply specific, you run the risk of running out of things to say about it. 

One of the groups I lead is called “Rediscovering Your Authentic Power.” That’s a really cool one because you can go really deep with it. Just about any issue that the members bring to the room, we can work with it and the members can make some really great connections with each other. 

When those conversations are flowing and there are a lot of people sharing, one of the things I highlight in all of our rooms is opening yourself up for wisdom. When there’s a room with 48 people on it, there obviously isn’t time to get all 48 stories, so to open ourselves up to wisdom and people who are there with you can help you in your own situation. But that’s the kind of work that can happen in a packed room with a broad topic. There’s more that people can connect on. And ultimately, it just opens everything up for so much more discussion.

I do try to get to everybody, obviously, especially if someone has had their hand up for a while. The harder challenge is the opposite–when nobody wants to talk and the room is just crickets. I don’t usually come with a set agenda or a script or anything like that. I really feel it’s better for the conversation to just be organic. I don’t want to make assumptions about what the group needs. While I’ll try to keep everyone on topic, it’s important to give people what they actually need when we’re supporting them and really ask their soul rather than bring a list of questions. I’m sure everybody is different that way, but for me it’s worked well.

If people really don’t want to talk at first, I’ll usually ask questions like, “What’s happening in you?” I like a question like that more than “How are you doing?” because something brought them to group therapy that day. And sometimes because of the format, people have to overcome the feeling like they’re in a class or a podcast. Sometimes they need to be encouraged that they’re welcome to speak freely. I’m not really there to speak, I’m there to facilitate. Sometimes it’s a group with a lot of people but only a couple are really sharing. We just go with it. And just because maybe people aren’t talking, that certainly doesn’t mean they’re not engaged. There can be lots of hearts all over the screen and other reactions throughout the session. 

Q: What would you say is the most rewarding thing about leading groups with Circles?

A: Walking alongside other people on their journey. I don’t even want to say “helping” them because I’m just there to facilitate us all in walking with one another. Psychologically, this is how we feel connected. Our stress levels are reduced when we feel connected with other people, and we all feel better when we don’t feel like we’re alone. The presence with one another is good for us. This further reduces the tendency for us to isolate when going through difficult times. I’ve seen its power personally in my own life, as well as from me walking with others in my counseling practice. So, just being there with them is the most rewarding thing. If you’re present in the room, you’re doing the work.

We’re communal beings. We’re relational beings. And we need that when we look for those safe spaces. It’s just the way we’re designed for some reason. Community and safe spaces really help us get through difficult times and literally reduces our stress levels.

Q: Is there anything else you want to share?

A: Just that because we are relational beings who are drawn to community, we seek that out even though the world seems scary and hostile. We need to find those spaces where we’re not just in company, but we’re in connection. And that closeness does wonders for our overall mental well being. That’s really why I love that Circles has brought people from literally all over the world together virtually. Even though I’ve done groups and stuff in person forever before working with Circles, I’m floored at what I’m seeing through an app. 

It’s really cool to connect with people and connect them with each other. There are people that extend the relationship beyond Circles, and obviously we want them to do that safely. But it’s great to get them connected in some way because it speaks to the very nature of our being. It’s so meaningful that Circles has provided a platform for that to happen.

If it’s time for you to decrease your stress levels and find your community, download the Circles app and connect with people who get it.