Soo Jin Lee
It can be quite stressful to join a group. Who are these people? What are they coming with? Will I like them? Will they like me? How much should I share about myself?
Meeting with any group of people that you may or may not know can be a stressful experience. There is always an underlying fear of judgment, questions about the other members, as well as feelings of uncertainty about whether groups will actually be helpful or not.
Some of the common emotions expressed by first-time group members are confusion, insecurity, and anxiety. For people that are already dealing with emotional issues on a daily basis, the idea of joining a support group can be a daunting thought and even more anxiety-provoking once you take the first step in signing up. Sometimes this anxiety may prevent you from actually showing up to the first group.
Many people gain helpful coping skills and guidance from a support group, aiding them on their path towards emotional wellbeing. The process may begin as soon as you are able to share yourself and your story with others in a safe and supportive environment. The stress from taking the first step in signing up and joining the group might be preventing you from receiving the relief and support that you need.
What do I do about the stress and how can I overcome this barrier?
Talk to the right people about your need for support
It is important to acknowledge the anxiety you have about joining the group and discuss it with the right people. Perhaps you were referred to a support group by your individual therapist or a family member. Talk to those people who referred you to discuss the anxiety of joining the group and ask if they may support you through the signing up process. This could alleviate some anxiety, and serve as accountability to follow up on the progress in receiving long-term support.
Engage with your group facilitator in advance
It’s okay to ask questions. The group facilitators are there to help you with your emotional relief from the moment that you engage with them. Engage with them in any form of communication that you feel most comfortable with whether it be email, text, or a phone call. The group facilitators are familiar with the emotional and physical process of joining the group and will be more than glad to assist you through the stressful process. Speaking with the facilitator in getting to know the group will provide you with the confirmation you need to make the commitment for further support. Know that they are here to help and create the most nonjudgmental space.
Think about what your goals are for joining the support group
For some, it might be to find relief and for others, it might be to gain coping skills. Whatever goal you had about joining the group initially, revisit your purpose for joining, and continue keeping it in mind for the first group session. It is an important reminder for yourself to remember your goals, as well as for others to hear about them. Keep in mind what you want and what you need as the group progresses.
Remember that anxiety before any new event is normal
Remember the first day of each semester for school? Remember the first team meeting at your work? Remember the first party you attended? It’s normal and expected to feel anxious about meeting new people and starting something new. Give yourself into the new experience and take your time to prepare yourself for the first meeting with your group facilitator. Asking questions and doing your own research on what to expect in a support group can be helpful in preparing for your first meeting. Remember that you have nothing to worry about, as we are a group that allows for complete anonymity.
Now the only thing left to do is to breathe and allow yourself to be received. There is a community of people that knows your pain and have experienced similar difficulties. Your group is waiting for you and are excited to meet you!