Debriefing: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

by Craig Thompson on March 28, 2018

After I wrote about debriefing last month, some people responded with versions of . . . Sounds like a good idea, but where should I go?

That’s a great question, and I’d like to point you to a place where you can find some options. Here at A Life Overseas, click on the Resources link at the top of the page, and you’ll see a list of debriefing opportunities under the heading “Re-entry and Debriefing Resources.” It’s not an exhaustive list, but with the continued help of this community, we can make it more so. Can you give us the names, URLs, and locations of other places you’d recommend? Just comment below or leave your contributions in the comments section at the end of the Resources list.

Of course, Where? isn’t the only question worth asking. So as you think about what might be a good fit for you, here are some more questions to get you started:

Who is offering the debriefing?
Is it led by an organization, or an individual?
What is their philosophy? Do they have a statement of faith?
Who are the facilitators? What is their background, experience, and training? Do they have specific areas of expertise? Have they written blog posts or books that you can read?
What have others said about their time there?
What language(s) will be used?
What are their policies concerning confidentiality?

Where is it located?
Does it take place in your passport country, or near your place of ministry?
Is it along your scheduled route, or would you rather it be off your beaten path?
Is it in the mountains, next to a lake, in a city, outside a small town?
What’s nearby?
What are the facilities like?
Where will you sleep—on site, at a hotel, in the home of a host?
Is it close to an airport, and is transportation available from the airport to the site?

Who will attend?
Will there be others there at the same time, or will you be there by yourself?
If there’s a group, how large will it be?
Can others from your organization attend the same session?
Are children welcome? Is there a minimum age?
Does the debriefing include a program for children, or is child-care provided?
How many young people will there be? Will age groups be divided?

How much does it cost?
What is included in the cost?
Are room and board provided, or should you make your own arrangements? (If food is included, can dietary needs be accommodated?)
Are scholarships available?
Is there a penalty for cancellation?
Will there be extra transportation costs to factor in?

When does it take place?
Are there multiple dates each year?
How long does it last?
When is the registration deadline?
Does it fill up quickly? Is there a waiting list?
How long after reentry do they recommend you wait before debriefing?
Is there a minimum time you’ll need to have spent on the field?

What is the schedule like?
Is the daily schedule flexible?
Is free time included?
Will attendees have time for informal interaction with each other?
How is time divided between group activities and individual debriefing?
Are times set aside for organized worship?
Is there anything you should do to prepare?
Will there be follow up after the debriefing?
Can you arrive early, or stay late?

Not all of these questions will be important to you, but some will. And you might have questions of your own—born out of your specific experiences, needs, and expectations. You can help out the rest of us with your additions to this list. And again, don’t forget to go to the Resources page and add your suggestions for where to debrief. That will be a big help, as well.

[photo: “Welcome home,” by Stefani Woods, used under a Creative Commons license]

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About Craig Thompson

Craig and his wife, Karen, along with their five children, served as missionaries in Taipei, Taiwan, for ten years before returning to southwest Missouri. His experiences, as well as conversations with other cross-cultural workers, have made him more and more interested in member care and the process of transitioning between cultures. Craig blogs at ClearingCustoms.net.

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