Why Participate in Groups?
by Anne Coscarelli, Ph.D.
Group interventions are an important way in which our Center provides comprehensive psychosocial care and assistance optimizing wellness. Just as there are different kinds of medical treatments for cancer, so are there different kinds of groups. We have a tendency to lump all of these under the heading of "support group" which is not a good idea. To some people, "support" implies a deficiency or a weakness, or that you can't make it through this experience on your own. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Groups are a place where education and information are disseminated and exchanged. They also are social places where people can be with others who are undergoing similar experiences; thus forming a community or network. Knowing that you are not alone can provide emotional support and information; this reassurance can change how you cope with and feel about your illness.
To be truly effective, a group must be well-defined and address the specific needs of the individual. What works for one person may not work for another. As a result, we have developed a range of different groups. Some groups rely on the participants to talk about their feelings and challenges. Members give feedback and help, and a strong sense of belonging develops. These groups usually meet once a week with a professional leader but some of our programs are offered on a monthly basis as well. Other groups are larger, similar to a class, and rely upon a leader to present information. These focus on a specific topic and have less discussion of personal concerns. Other groups use a particular therapeutic technique to assist patients and families in healing, reconfiguring a sense of wholeness or learning skills to optimize wellness.
Think about groups as a resource for now or the future. It is important to find the right group for you. I recommend that you assess what you want in a group and what is comfortable for you. Ask yourself these questions to help identify your needs:
Am I more comfortable talking or listening in a group environment?
Do I want information?
Do I want to learn a specific skill?
Am I looking for non-verbal means of self expression?
Am I seeking personal growth and change?
How much time am I willing to commit to a group?
Do I have some experiences that may benefit others?
What previous group experiences have I had and what made them helpful or not?
Once you have identified some information about what you want in a group, seek information about the various groups available. I recommend that you do the following:
Try to talk to the leader prior to the group.
Seek information about what goes on in the group.
Find out when it meets and what is required of you.
Make a commitment to go to more than one session. First sessions don't always give the best impressions.
If one group does not work, look for another one and TRY IT! All groups are different.
Keep in mind that not every group will be perfect.
Try to identify what you can get out of the group.
Often, people who think they will not benefit have great results once they find the right situation. Do not give up until you find what works for you.
To inquire about enrollment in our groups, please contact the Center
by phone at (310) 794-6644 or by email.