The Power of Groups

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Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

I recently received a validating, compassionate email from a previous friend from a time in my life when things were difficult and I felt alone. It reminded me of the power of groups because at that time in my life I went to a group where I learned to release behaviors that no longer served me. Years later I ended up serving folx in similar situations and then became a clinical psychologist where I continue to work with people individually and in groups.

Group therapy and support groups provide a sweet opportunity to open up and connect. Connection is so precious these days in times of colonialism and the pandemic. Group therapy can be led by someone like a clinical psychologist who may be experienced with folx they serve, whereas a support group can be made up of members of the group with lived experience. For example, as a cisgender psychologist I can conduct group therapy with Transgender adolescents with my experience serving at gender clinics and having had the opportunity to serve many Trans and nonbinary people. However, I wouldn’t be in a support group with Trans adolescents because I’m not Trans nor an adolescent so I don’t have the lived experience to be in a support group with Transgender teens.

If you feel connecting through a group may serve you please consider a few components of groups that can make the experience what you need.

Access

We want to consider access issues such as insurance coverage, transportation, and language differences. There’s also internet access and access to a private space if you share space and need an internet connection to join a group. Financial barriers may limit one to a group too. Unfortunately, there are so many barriers to accessing a group you may desire or need. If there’s a group secretary or therapist you may brainstorm ways to increase accessibility so you can be a part of the group.

Safety

We also want to consider the many levels of safety to consider. For example, does the group leader represent the members of the group or at least acknowledge their privilege? Are things kept confidential within the group? Are people gossiping in group? There’s a lot that can be done to increase the safety of a group so long as people have some intentionality and care around how people are treated in the group.

Openness

Opening up in ways that feel safe for you and are not too raw, too soon can be helpful. For example, some folx may want to share at a group level while others may benefit from sharing with a sponsor or therapist before sharing at group level. Additionally, openness may not have been praised in your family or society growing up. Praise any tiny ounce of openness you display. I’m so proud of you for trying out connection through a group.

Connection is a healing balm for humanity. Some of my deepest connections and repairing have come from group settings so I’m forever grateful for and in support of your healing in whatever ways that looks for you.

Soft Heart Psychology conducts therapy groups from time to time so please feel free to reach out and let us know if you need a particular group.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

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