When Support Groups Are A Bad Idea
Dr. Shosh shares the difference between a bad support group and a good one.
Posted August 5, 2012
Well, it’s not the idea that’s bad, the idea is very good. But it’s often the support group itself that’s not run well and can actually do more harm than good. There are a few rules that should be found in any support group – here’s a very important one that should be present. If it’s not, keep looking for another group!
For eighteen years I ran support groups for women suffering from postpartum depression. The feedback I’d receive week after week and year after year by the hundreds of participants who would come and go was positive for many reasons.
Most importantly, a good support group has a leader who doesn’t allow only complaining. Certainly it’s important to create an atmosphere where it’s safe to unload and vent and talk about what doesn’t feel good – sometimes things feel downright awful. After all, for a participant to receive support and hear she’s not the only one feeling like that is so useful and healing. However, if the group turns into simply a bashing session about how life stinks and husbands don’t understand and work is terrible, and so on, that’s not a good support group.
Here’s what makes the difference between a bad support group and a good one. In a good one, the leader will make sure the group ends on a note of empowerment – in other words, what steps will the women take to help move themselves in the direction toward health. For instance, one woman might call her doctor, another might commit to explaining what she needs to her mother, and yet another woman may ask her husband to hire a babysitter when he travels. They’ll report back at the next group, which propels them into accountability.
The purpose of a support group is to help get you through a rough spot in your life so you can then graduate from the group. A support group like this shouldn’t be one you continue forever – look forward to being done with it and going on with your life! That can only be accomplished when the participants take responsibility for moving forward and making their lives better.
In the next blog post, I’ll add another essential component to a good support group. Stay tuned…