5 Ways a Group Can Help You Get What You Really Want
How did I get here?
Posted April 19, 2016
Today's guest blogger, Zoë Entin, LCSW is a relationship expert in private practice in Manhattan. She is currently completing advanced training in the FACTS (Family And Couples Treatment and Training Services) at the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy. For the past decade and a half she has worked with adults and adolescents educating and counseling them about relationship abuse, healthy relationships and respectful breakups.
Whether this is related to work, romance, or family, a lot of clients, friends and associates have spoken to me recently about finding themselves in a place they hadn’t envisioned or desired for themselves. As I listened to people talk about this I realized the need for a forum to explore why the sentiment is so common. Dr. Bella DePaulo’s book, How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, helped me broaden my perspective on the scope of alternative living situations that are becoming more popular in our country. It led me to consider how many of us hold onto ideals that, in some cases, have destructive consequences . This led me to ask myself, “What could I do, as a clinician, to make a positive contribution to this situation?” I decided to start a group for women who struggle to reconcile where they are in life with where they plan or planned to be. Here are five reasons members benefit from joining this group or another like it.
Reason Number 1: Challenging Your Perspective
One of my clients spoke at length about her frustrations around still being single. She is “very clear” about what she wants but feels that all the good partners are taken. Further exploration reveals that, although she says she wants to be in a relationship, she rarely socializes and is not participating in any activities that might help her meet new people. A group is a helpful way to challenge how we see the problems we face. Someone who is stuck in a place of fear and self-doubt might be able to assist someone else who hasn’t yet become aware that they are experiencing a similar mindset. This change in perspective can help clarify life goals. It also can help establish a compassionate perspective on how to attain them. Many people believe they want one thing but when they dig deeper into their thoughts and feelings they realize that they’re more conflicted than they realized. Having a sounding board, as you have in a group, can help separate superficial objectives from more important aspirations.
Reason Number 2: Strength in Numbers
So many of us feel that what we’re experiencing is unique, happening to ourselves alone. It’s easy to feel this way when you look around and feel bombarded by “proof” that other people have attained what you believe you want. This can result from a social media contact or from everyday interaction with others. Comparing and contrasting our situation with those around us can provoke feelings of isolation and stress if we are focusing on what we consider to be our deficits. Having a place where we can share experience—including feelings of aloneness—and hear others speak of their struggle with the same issues can be liberating. It’s easy to assume that the people who look happy have no problems or challenges. That’s rarely true. The perspective I’m describing has proved to be especially helpful to clients who are unsure about whether they want to continue in their marriage for fear that they might run out of time to build the family they had hoped for. Hearing other people share similar experiences normalized what they felt and, in the end, helped them to identify the direction that made most sense for themselves.
Reason 3: Affordability
Let’s be honest, things in this city can be expensive! Good therapy is no different. Attending a group is a more economical and realistic option for some. If you resonate with reasons a group may be helpful to you, this one is icing on the cake.
Reason Number 4: Support/Hope
People are at different stages of figuring out their own situation and moving towards their goals. Being able to discuss this process with peers can generate hope. I was recently told about an experience one of my clients had at a recent dinner event. As a single woman looking for a partner, she felt frustrated and overwhelmed when two married persons offered ideas and encouragement for her to explore paths that had worked for them. They may have been well intentioned, but she ended up feeling attacked. She felt like a failure when coupled people tried to “help”. On the other hand, when she met with other single women who were dealing with the same struggle as herself, she was able to take in their advice as supportive and empathic.
Reason 5: Motivation and Grounding
The commitment to attending the group is one step towards committing to move towards what you really want for yourself. Once you have figured out what you want, a group can be a valuable way to help you keep on track. It’s easy to lose focus when the path gets murky or takes sudden twists or turns. Just knowing you have a place to go to concentrate on your future can be energizing. Many of my clients remark on how easy it is to get caught up in the little things and stray from what they need to be working on. Knowing that you have a set time to address things can help you stay on the path towards getting what they want.
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