When you hear “group therapy” or “support group” what goes through your mind?
If you thought of an AA meeting, support groups are commonly associated with substance abuse, however, they are also beneficial for other challenges as well. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. We all have gone through or will go through a major loss, heartbreak, and so much more. Even though we’re inherently resilient, some of us have more trouble coping with the curveballs life throws at us.
A lot of us have trouble trying to communicate what we’re going through. Many of us bottle up our feelings and try to put on a brave face, but sooner or later the feelings come out in other ways. The best way to deal with it is to let it out. Support groups encourage people to talk and share with others. Even if someone is apprehensive about sharing their feelings, listening to others can convince them to do the same. The most important thing you can bring to a support group (besides yourself) is an open mind. You don’t have to spill your guts out on the first day, but you do have to be open to listen and grow.
We know it might not feel ideal to open up to a group of strangers. It’s pretty common for a myriad of thoughts to cross your mind, like:
“I don’t want to sit and listen to everyone’s pain!”
“I’m afraid that I’ll cry.”
“I’m a very private person and I’m not comfortable sharing”
“I’m a strong person and don’t need to wallow in my feelings.
“I have my family and friends around me. They’ll help me.”
Fortunately, after joining a support group, you’ll more often than not find that your initial fears were unjustified. A support group can actually be tremendously helpful for your mental health. As the saying goes, “there’s strength in numbers,” and group therapy and support have been proven, in study after study, to be more effective than individual therapy.
Groups are a safe space for people to learn, share, and grow. When you see others opening up about what they’re experiencing, you realize that what you’re experiencing is completely normal. What other people go through is what you’re going through every day. You have concrete evidence right in front of you that you are not alone.
Additionally, sometimes our pain is so intense we do not know how to explain our experience with words. Listening to others share and describe their experience can help us make connections and identify emotions that can describe what we’re going through. Moreover, witnessing others dealing with your same struggles can expose you to new coping strategies that your group members use. These insights that your group can give you could be life-changing, and the success you see from the people around you will also help you feel more hopeful.
The power of the group is that members are intentionally looking out for each other. One of the best ways to make yourself feel better is to help someone else feel better. With everyone in the group acting by this philosophy, you’re completely safe to be you without fear of being judged.
All in all, a support group can give you the motivation to keep getting better. Even though you start with those initial hesitations, you leave with a bunch of revelations:
“We’re more alike than I knew.”
“Even though my friends and family are there for me, they don’t quite understand – but my group does”
“It’s okay to share feelings. The group is a safe place to share and not be judged.”
“I’m strong but even strong people feel the pain of losing someone”
“The act of giving to others in the group brings hope to me.”
Human beings literally need connection and want to feel a sense of belonging. Receiving support, supporting another, and by extension, forming connections, are powerful methods for healing and the foundations of belonging. As Brene Brown says, “when we feel a sense of belonging we do not have to change who we are, rather we are able to be who we are.” All of the above is why we created Circles, a safe space to connect with people experiencing similar struggles. That’s the healing power of a Circle: hearing other people’s experiences echo your own. What you hear in others exists in you.