*(The examples provided below are composite cases, synthesizing disguised information and not any patient in particular)*
It is difficult to measure what benefit a community has to offer; it is less tangible than a workout class, buying products online, or a paycheck. The evidence we can draw upon, in the wake of a pandemic and the way COVID has forced us to be so separate, is the need for connection, and the benefits community offers to our sense of ourselves and our well-being. Our physical health has been ever-present on our minds, as a nation and world during this last year. Wellness encompasses more than our physical being, but also our emotional experience, our relationships, and the way we understand and meet our needs. Workplaces have had to make adjustments, on the fly, in the way they operate, and the way they treat their employees during this time. One of the ways employers have modified their provisions for employees is by implementing enhanced mental health benefits and offerings. An example of how forward-thinking companies are putting this concept into practice is in workplace wellness initiatives like support groups.
Support groups, many virtual presently, offer participants an opportunity to connect with others going through similar experiences. We can do well to champion our efforts toward growth by way of seeking professional help in a clinical therapist, coach, or mentor. What can accelerate and further support the longevity of growth is found in the gathering of a community. We feel less alone; that shared experiences can validate our own perspective, alleviate or reduce our sorrows, and allow us to laugh and share together. We see examples in our colleagues or peers as to our shared humanity. Gathering with intention, to gain insight, and support our needs as well as those around us brings us closer to stasis in our holistic health. The core function or “protein” of the groups is in the material and by the leadership of an experienced mental health professional. The accompaniments or nourishment comes from participation.
During a group session, *Trey shared an experience that really left an impact. Trey talked about his initial concerns about attending and participating in a support group. He shared his fears, misconceptions, and his appreciation of unconditional acceptance from the group. Trey had been attending for some time, and decided today was the moment he was ready to talk about his story. Trey discussed his experiences as a solo parent and how he is recovering from the loss of his partner. Though he has met many challenges, he has had a sense of belonging and understanding that he cannot find anywhere else but with others who share parts of his truth. He has been able to be a more present father to his child, he’s found it easier to ask for help and support from others within and outside this group, and he’s been able to give himself space to heal. Mental and emotional health, like physical health, is evidenced in positive growth. What Trey shared in this group demonstrates the immeasurable value of a community of support, and how it can offer increased insight, expansion, and an enlightened lens through which we see ourselves in our world.
Author: Diana Smits, MSW