In the beginning God said “It’s not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18) so He created Eve. Before long the first couple landed outside the garden where they struggled with the same hardships and family dysfunctions we face today. As Solomon said, “… there’s nothing new under the sun” (Ecc 1:9).
We all have to deal with hardships and dysfunctions. How do respond when you face a tough problem or simply need to grow?
I hope you don’t try to go it alone. We all need help from God and others. A special kind of help comes when we connect with others who truly understand because they share the same struggle.
If you have not sought out group support to help you through life challenges I hope you will do so. Groups offer a powerful kind of help. I know.
As a professional counselor I’ve facilitated groups for engaged couples, parents of missionaries, blended families, empty nesters, people the bereaved and the depressed. Groups empower. Right now I’m facilitating a 10-week group that’s in week 9. None of us want the group to end because it gives life.
I owe much of my own mental health to groups that helped me when my mother had Alzheimer’s, I wrote a doctoral dissertation, suffered a a medical trauma, moved and nearly lost my marriage. A young couple I know turned a corner in their grief after attending a retreat for parents who lost a child.
The Value of a Group
The people you meet in support groups understand your struggle because they face the same challenge themselves. Together you can:
- experience the joy of connection and belonging
- talk openly without fear of being judged
- recognize you’re more normal than you thought
- share feedback and correct faulty ideas
- provide accountability
- learn what works
- learn what to expect
- learn practical tips for coping
- learn about resources that offer additional help
You can find support for just about any situation life throws your way including:
- grief (general and loss of a child)
- marriage building and marriage failure
- parenting every age and single parenting
- life adjustment and social skills for all ages
- addiction and families of the addicted
- most medical conditions and caregivers
- fitness and weight loss
- blended families
- career change and unemployment
- psychological problems and families of the mentally ill
- parents of missionaries
- parents of prisoners
- grandparents as parents
- spouses of military personnel, doctors and police
- anger management
- victims of crime and survivors of abuse
To locate a group focused on your challenge:
- ask doctors and health care workers
- search the internet (blogs, Facebook sites, chat rooms)
- contact local centers (libraries, religious institutions and agencies)
- ask people you know with the same condition/challenge
- contact state, national organizations for a particular condition or situation
Types of Groups:
Groups organize for various purposes:
- therapy groups – led by therapist to treat psychological disorders.
- psycho–educational groups – led by therapist or pastor to help members cope with less severe life problems.
- support groups – conducted by volunteers facing the same challenge as group members.
- growth groups – led by experts to help members grow or achieve goals.
Note: Helping groups differ from sit-and-learn classes. Knowledge is good but more growth comes from interpersonal exchanges (Prv 27:17).
Tips for Evaluating a Group:
Be choosy about the groups you join. Some don’t help because they wallow in negativity. I recommend groups that:
- meet in person
- are led by someone trained or use a reputable curriculum
- help you grow closer to God and grow as a person
- feel emotionally safe and comfortable
- provide encouragement and practical help
- instill hope
Please connect with a group if you’re facing something hard right now or just want to grow. Groups empower.
Let’s face it, we seldom tell the whole truth to the people around us. We have images to live up to and roles to play. Groups allow us to show our real selves and receive real help in return.
If you can’t find a group that meets in person look for online support. Also, consider launching a small group yourself if you know a person or two facing the same challenge as you. Find a relevant book, read together and meet to discuss. You won’t be sorry I promise!
God knew and Solomon would agree … we’re better together!