Building Your Support System
Who out there is on your team?
Posted December 29, 2009
Getting help from others is often the first, best step toward getting through a crisis.
But first, a quick introduction, this being my debut post. Like my bio says, I work at a 28-day crisis residential facility in California. Clients generally come to the program direct from psychiatric hospitalization. They tend to be homeless and dually diagnosed–that is, struggling with both chronic mental illness and substance abuse. They often own nothing but the clothes they come in with. Their crises are real and ongoing.
The program provides the basics: food and shelter. But also structure: A morning wake-up time, daily chores, meal preparation. We have an MD and nurse on staff. Clients get group and individual therapy. Case managers help with funding and housing. Everything you might need to begin to pull yourself out of crisis.
Which is what I plan to write about here. Whatever you're going through right now–crisis or not–my hope is that these posts will be of help.
So, to begin, here's a worksheet I use regularly with clients in group: My Support System–Today and In the Future. Take a look. The worksheet asks who you have on your team right now–who you can lean on in a time of need. Then it asks who you'd like to have in your support system in the future. What family, friends, professionals, and others might be of help?
For crisis house clients, the first column–current support–is often almost completely empty. Family and friends are all lost, gone. Given histories of frustration and disappointment, people sometimes have a hard time envisioning a future that's any different. They don't trust others anymore. They're used to being loners, and often plan to continue on that way.
We talk about that: "No man is an island"...how having someone to call for help–some emotional support, maybe a couch to sleep on–might have helped them steer clear of their current troubles.
You don't have to be homeless (or anywhere near homeless) to get something out of this exercise. Who is in your support system right now? Who out there is on your team?
Think about the time your were doing your best. Who did you have around you then? Maybe family, maybe friends. You may have had a doctor you trusted, co-workers to commiserate with, a therapist, classmates, a religious community.
Is that time now? Terrific–something to be grateful for. If not, ask yourself, what's it going to take to get there? "Who can I lean on in the future and what do I need to do to get them into my life?"
Will Baum, LCSW
"S is for Support" in an ongoing series, Crisis Coping from A to Z.