at the Greenwich Leadership Forum and introduced
himself to me – we’ve since become fast friends and colleagues. We believe his work in bipolar and severe depression has great value to people suffering from incarceration issues. He hosts a DBSA Support Group in Greenwich that meets on Friday afternoons. – Jeff
There are many reasons to attend a DBSA support group. Here are five that I believe are particularly important:
1. Safety and Connection.
As anyone who has ever experienced depression, loved someone with depression or treated someone with depression knows: when people are depressed they feel insecure, scared and highly vulnerable. When depressed people seek help, they need to feel safe (i.e. cared for, understood and protected from further harm). No one understands these issues as well as a person who has lived them. When one comes to a DBSA support group, one is suddenly in the presence of a group of people, all of whom have metaphorically lived in the same neighborhood. And there is a unique feeling of safety as one discovers that others in the room not only understand but truly “know” from personal experience all the streets, all the fears, all the dangerous places.
In addition, it is profoundly reassuring to discover that many in the room have found a “safe way” back home to happiness and well-being. The process of sharing all of these feelings, fears and experiences can and does produce enormous benefits for both parties – both the newcomer and the existing group members. The DBSA group enables people to come out of themselves and start to “feel alive” again through the process of connecting with others. These deep human connections are perhaps the most profound gift of DBSA group membership. In DBSA groups, people find a place where they can and do feel accepted and where they feel they “belong.” Perhaps a simple statement from a once highly skeptical group member says it all: “When I came here I discovered that people listened to me and I gradually began to feel accepted rather than unacceptable.”
2. Compassion and Empathy.
Compassion and empathy are routinely provided by people who have lived a similar and painful experience in ways that are deep and highly personal. DBSA group members have at one time or another personally felt despair, hopelessness, emptiness, the absence of energy or motivation and even the profound desire to end all of the pain and misery through suicide. They have felt the shame and fear of hiding these emotions and thoughts. The issues of shame and stigma are perhaps best dealt with in a DBSA group setting where everyone else in the group is facing or has faced the same concerns. In the DBSA group new members will discover that all of these issues and feelings will be responded to with profound compassion, empathy, understanding, insight and wisdom.
3. Not Burdening Others.
People in a DBSA support group can discuss their pain and suffering without feeling they are burdening friends and/or family. In addition to finding support and empathy, they need to be able to freely express “negative” emotions like anger, bitterness or resentment and still be listened to with tenderness and compassion and without judgment by others. People who have suffered severe depression may also need to discuss and explore lost dreams, lost spouses, lost jobs and even their “lost selves” as well as the despair and/or terror at perhaps never being able to again recapture what they have lost. Similarly, they need to learn how to listen with tenderness and compassion to others. People who are recovering from depression need to discover that they can help as well as receive help. Giving is an essential part of recovery and giving is at the core of a DBSA support group. Giving back also helps to alleviate both feelings of isolation and feelings of being a burden.
4. Honest Feedback.
In addition to receiving compassion and empathy, people recovering from depression need to become resilient and to be able to both learn and grow from the challenges which will inevitably continue. To do so, they must be prepared and willing to receive and accept nonjudgmental but honest feedback. Honest feedback is difficult to hear and often involves exploring and even confronting excuses and rationalizations with the awareness and even the insistence that everyone is ultimately responsible for their own recovery. This difficult and at times confrontational message is best received when it comes from others who have had to face and confront the same problems and issues themselves.
5. Regaining Hope and Faith.
Men and women facing the diagnosis, the reality and the consequences of living with bipolar disease and/or severe depression often feel overwhelmed. Many have experienced repeated episodes and feel they have little to look forward to other than continued illness. As a result, they may lose hope and faith in the future and in themselves. People need to regain hope, reaffirm their belief in themselves and gradually begin to laugh again. The DBSA support group is perhaps the best place to gradually regain all of these elements crucial to recovery, including the ability to laugh – even at oneself! This alchemy from despair to belief is accomplished again and again in DBSA support groups.
In the DBSA groups, people learn to communicate their feelings and fears at a deep and honest level. They also learn how to listen. They learn from the journey and discoveries of others and ultimately they bond and identify with other members of the group who have, through proper medical treatment and participation in the group, achieved new meaningful goals themselves.
Maybe the best reason to come to a DBSA group is as simple as one man’s statement:
“I look forward to coming to group. I feel much better when I am here. And I feel much better driving home.”
John S. Tamerin, M.D. is a member of the Board of Directors, DBSA National, and Medical Consultant to the Greenwich, Connecticut DBSA Chapter.
Dr. Tamerin, a psychiatrist with over 40 years of clinical experience, has served for many years as Clinical Associate Professor at Weill/Cornell School of Medicine teaching residents and medical students. He has consistently been voted one of the Top Doctors in America by Castle Connelly.
Dr. Tamerin has published extensively in the areas of mood disorders and the addictions. He has served on the GAP committee on Alcoholism and the Addictions, the Committee on Human Sexuality and most recently has joined the committee on Psychiatry and the Arts. His goal in this series of articles is to further integrate medicine with the Humanities and the Arts by presenting new and provocative perspectives of direct relevance to the treatment of people suffering with mood disorders.
Dr. Tamerin can be reached at (203) 661-8282; firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This paper was first published by Dr. Tamerin under the title, “The Clinical Value of DBSA Support Groups.”
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Director
at Christ Church Greenwich
254 East Putnam Avenue
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Lynn Springer, Advocate
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Floor
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA 06604
Jesus Saves Ministries
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Cathedral of Praise C.O.G.I.C.
45 Gregory Street
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