Fears of Joining Groups

Last Wednesday, Juniper Roots finished its first art therapy group.  We focused on body-image and self-acceptance, two common issues for those in recovery from an eating disorder. I cannot speak for those who participated, but as one of the individuals co-facilitating the group, it was very rewarding to be witness to positive change and growth that occurred over the 8 weeks.

With the hopes and plans to run more groups at Juniper Roots (a relapse prevention group just started last week actually), I thought I would challenge some destructive and distorted types of thinking that often hinders individuals from joining, potentially robbing them of the opportunity to move forward in their recovery.  Interestingly, most group attendees are often thinking the same thing... yet each thing they are the only one :) Can you relate to any of the following?

1) I'm Not Sick Enough

Depending on the type of group or program, this could possibly be true. Some groups have specific criteria that must be met, and depending on whether or not you meet said criteria, you may not qualify. 

Most often, however, when this comment is said, it is coming out of a place of distortion.  It is a clever way for the eating disorder to convince you that you do not need help, or that you aren't worthy enough to get it.  The eating disorder uses this comment as a way to downplay symptoms, keeping you sick. It does not have your long-term health in mind. Remember, recovery is not a comparison, and you definitely don't need to be on death's door step before getting help.  Again, as all groups are different, and may be geared specifically for different stages of recovery, connect with its facilitator to see if it would be a good fit. Get all the facts, don't just rule it out automatically as it could end up being very beneficial. 

2) What If I'm the Biggest One There?

This could be true, however, does not disqualify or make you unworthy to join. Size doesn't make one person worthier in getting help than someone else.  I can't tell you how often I have heard individuals of all sizes listen and support one another as they shame many of the same struggles.  Don't be the one discriminating against yourself because of your size, and don't automatically assume you will be judged for it either. 

3) I Failed In My Eating Disorder

All eating disorders have physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual risks and consequences. One form of eating disorder is not better than another. If you find yourself thinking this, check your motivation to see if it is driven by your eating disorder. It is not a comparison. Again, allow yourself to get the help you need! 

4) People Are Going To Judge Me

Maybe, however, this is why facilitators are present... It is their job to make the group as safe as possible. We also live in a world where people do judge. It is inevitable in life to not experience it at some point. Part of recovery is learning to let go of what other people think of you. Stand tall knowing you are doing what you need to do to be, and stay, well. Sometimes, judgement comes from a lack of understanding and/or fear, which has more to do with them than it does you. Don't let their journey in this get in the way of yours. There is nothing wrong with getting help!

5) I Don't Want Anyone To Know I Go

The only people who will know that you are going to group are: 

- those who are also in group (facilitators included)

- those you tell

- and maybe those who see you come into the office/building (a stretch) 

An important part in creating safety within group is confidentiality. As a therapist, I am bound by this (unless there is harm to self, harm to others, if my records were subpoenaed, abuse of a minor, abuse by another professional). The importance of maintaining confidentiality (around who you see and what you hear) is stressed amongst the group.  Likely, you aren't the only one who has concerns around confidentiality, making others just as likely to respect yours as you would theirs. I do want to add that I won't judge either. We all need help and support in life... and there is NO shame in that!

Challenge Yourself!

For many people, when something is new or unknown, there can be an element of fear attached to it.  This often goes away after awhile though. Like most things, the more you expose yourself to it, the easier it gets. Groups are a great way to practice strengthening social skill, assertiveness, boundaries, as well as getting peer support. Just like everyone else in the room, you bring an important prospective and opinion that could be helpful for those around you, and them you.  And, as always, the more you challenge and throw yourself into the group, the more you will get out of it!