As an outsider looking in, support groups are simply misunderstood. One may assume that you are forced to speak about your emotions, reveal things that you aren’t comfortable sharing, sit in a circle with people you don’t have a bond with and participate in ritualistic practices.
We can’t blame these perceptions. From The Fault In Our Stars to Baby Mama, group sessions are portrayed in the media with actors who generally do not hold the experience to be in their seat in real life. Support groups, at least at The Center for Balanced Living, look quite different.
Here are ten truths about our support groups:
1. Our support groups are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. They are offered the first and third Tuesday of every month from 6:30 pm-8:00 pm. You do NOT have to be in treatment at The Center to participate.
2. Support groups are for individuals ages 16+.
3. Groups are led by a volunteers who have at least a bachelor’s degree and who commit to at least one year of service. A licensed eating disorder therapist from The Center supervises the group and gives full leadership to the volunteer facilitators.
4. Four separate groups are offered: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, compulsive overeating/binge eating disorder and family and friends. Groups dynamics are maintained, and open discussion encouraged, by limiting groups to only those who identify with that group. (Example: An individual with bulimia goes to bulimia support group; a friend of the person with bulimia goes to Family and Friends group, not to the bulimia group with the friend). It may be uncomfortable at first but it allows everyone to feel understood and not to feel like they are being observed. Participants gain a true understanding that they are not alone and feel more free to share with others in similar situations.
5. Privacy is maintained. What is said in the room, stays in the room.
6. Numbers are not discussed. For folks struggling with eating disorders, numbers can trigger eating disorder thoughts (“Ed”) and can lead to comparisons.
7. Talking is encouraged but not mandated. Share as much or as little as is comfortable for you. (We find that those who choose to discuss their experiences end up getting more out of the group.) An important part of participation is active listening, in which you appear interested and give everybody a chance to talk.
8. Eating in group is permitted. If you need to eat or have a snack during the group meeting time, we encourage you to bring your food with you; please don’t feel you cannot eat and therefore must miss group participation.
9. Participation is voluntary. No attendance is taken and you can attend as many or as few times as you wish.
10. Support groups are NOT therapy and should NEVER be used as a replacement for therapy. This experience is about support and validation that you can offer to one another within the structure established by the facilitators. The groups are not therapy sessions where underlying psychological issues and changes are processed. If you need more than support and want therapy, please contact our front desk at 614-896-8222 to request an assessment with one of our clinicians.
“The support groups are unlike anything in the city. They’re a place to come and be free of expectation, worry and stress and truly feel supported.” Anonymous support group participant
If you have any questions, please call 614.896.8222. We will gladly help you decide if support group is a suitable option for you.
Our deepest gratitude goes to a grant from The Harry C. Moores Foundation for providing funding the groups through 2016.