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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Re going to a support group - should I ask my therapist if it's OK?

    I looked at a GROW group which is run by members. I am concerned that it's not facilitated by a health care professional eg psychologist. Also when reading a detailed testimoney it was stated “I am maladjusted and inadequate to life” is the initial admission, a life skills book and a 12 step program, sounding like AA to me. I may benefit from the group but am quite fearful, maybe I can only manage the monthly cafe visit instead which could be less confronting. I have been going to a psychologist and have medication supervised by a psychiatrist. I feel stuck but anxious about going to a group. (Even though remembering that many years ago I had great help from an 8 week program/group for post natal depression.) Have I mentioned how afraid I am? This is on top of pretty bad depression. Many thanks to the health care professionals on this site.
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  • My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    I definitely think that you should discuss this with your psychologist.

    In my experience (going to AA when I was recovering from alcohol addiction) “12 step plan” self-help groups can be highly stereotyped (“one size fits all”) and, as you imply, the absence of a professional moderator/facilitator is a potential concern.

  • CrochetQueenKerry

    HealthShare Member

    OK, thanks for that. I will keep plodding away, going to appointments and taking my medication. Thanks again.

  • 1


    Belinda Chelius

    Counsellor, Social Worker

    I am a skilled, dedicated, culturally sensitive and passionate Senior Social Work Clinician, practicing in the field of complex mental health and substance misuse (Dual-Diagnosis) … View Profile

    I have read some great research articles around how beneficial group work, especially peer based recovery groups can be.
    The guidelines for peer groups are that “support is provided by people who are experientially credentialed to assist others in initiating recovery, maintaining recovery”. This does not mean that the “specialist does not need training or supervision, but it does affirm life experience as the foundational source drawn upon in the helping process” (White, 2007, p. 16).
    Well run groups with clear boundaries in a safe context; in conjunction with weekly individual counselling can be a solid recovery program.
    I have run outpatient recovery programs like this myself and found that the group work processes can act as mirrors to its members.
    Saying this I do agree that groups need to be guided by guidelines set out by it’s members and basic values need to be adhered to!
    I would suggest initially you find a group led by a professional and usually a co-facilitator, who might be a peer.
    As you become more confident in your recovery and your choices you could find a peer group that fits in with your values, where you feel safe and not judged as “maladjusted and inadequate to life”
     “healthy” group can give you great support and honest feedback, guided by an empathetic facilitator.
    Yes it can be hard and daunting process, and understandably you feel anxious about sharing very painful experiences in a group context. I found many of my client use their individual sessions to put the group experience in context and debrief around the process. A very valuable learning experience as the group is often a microcosm of the outside world.
     White, W. L. (2007). Peer-based Addiction Recovery Suppory History, Theory, Practice, and Scientific Evaluation.

  • CrochetQueenKerry

    HealthShare Member

    thank you for your advice, I will definitely think about it. thanks again, Kerry

  • 1


    Beulah Warren


    Beulah Warren is a registered Psychologist who has worked with infants and their parents for over 20 years, initially on research projects and later clinically. … View Profile

    I would certainly suggest that if you have a therapist that you discuss it with them. They may know who is running the group, and they might be able to advise what would be the best sort of support group to attend.

  • Matthew Evans


    I chose psychology as a profession because I wanted to make a contribution to people’s health, happiness and wellbeing. I am interested in the emotional, … View Profile

    You don't have to ask permission from your psychologist to attend a support group if you are finding it is beneficial. It is a really good thing to do, and in a sense a support group is like, sometimes they use the term “therapeutic community.”

    The people attending have often got the same sort of problems. Maybe it is a support group for one of the problems you might have, you might have an addiction. It might be a 12 step program or some sort of basic support group. It might be they often can provide specialized help that psychologists would not because there is often an ability to empathize and to identify with the problem. If it is a support group for anxiety or depression or one for mental health specifically, they are often very helpful.

    I think it is often a good idea. The idea with therapy is that you do not become dependent on it, but use it in a way to become more resilient. That you give up therapy after a certain period of time when the psychotherapy helps you to become more independent, but in a sense we never become independent totally. We become inter-dependent.

    So your support group is a way of forming more helpful supportive relationships and friendships with people. Usually there is a fellowship aspect to it where there is some, there is certainly some therapeutic help but it is also just the ordinary human help from sympathetic or empathetic people.

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