By Susan Sklaroff-Van Hook
JFS Clinical Coordinator
I think we ripple on into others, just like a stone puts its ripples into a brook. That, for me, too, is a source of comfort….some piece of ourselves gets passed on and on and on.
Irvin, D. Yalom, interview, Wise Counsel
There are times when all we feel the need for a little extra support to get through the twists and turns of life. These are often what we call times of “transition,” that is, some change has happened or is happening that feels difficult to deal with on our own. Perhaps it is a time of loss of a loved one or a job or a dream, a feeling of isolation, or changes in the body or spirit that makes getting through the day challenging. Sometimes, we just feel that something is missing and we would like to find someone else who understands.
There might be feelings of sadness or stress during these times and often, individual psychotherapy can be helpful. Yet, it is also well-documented that connecting with a group of people experiencing similar issues can also be a powerful way toward healing, while reducing a sense of stigma and isolation and building a network of support.
JFS is committed to the idea that no one in our community should suffer isolation or emotional distress or lack of support and caring. These are also the essential elements of support groups and group therapy. For example, in 2014, JFS started an ongoing Chronic Conditions Support Group. This group meets once a month and provides a safe place for people who have the shared experience and identity of living with a physical illness or disorder that impacts their lives in ways that are hard for others, outside of that experience, to always comprehend. During the group sessions, participants “check in” with each other, sharing whatever seems important at that time, and then we lead discussions about a variety of topics, including strategies for coping, medical advocacy, problem solving, family perspectives, etc. During each session, we also try to talk about some element of self-care and lead a short meditation to assist with stress management. Finally, the group members “check out” with reflections of their experience, ideas that seemed helpful, issues that are still concerning, ideas for up-coming sessions, or something of value that they might want to work on during the month.
Seeing how beneficial group support can be, JFS will be offering several groups in the upcoming year. The groups currently being considered include:
- Parents of Children with Disabilities (ages 0-10): Creating Connections
- Bereavement and Grief: Supporting after the Loss of a Family Member
- Women Flying Solo: Living on Your Own
- Aging with Wisdom: Older Adults Thriving in Today’s World
If you are interested in any of these groups (or have other ideas that might fit your needs), please contact me at 610.821.8722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.