Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Therapeutic Support Groups

David Spiegel, M.D., professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Center for Stress and Health at Stanford University School of Medicine, published a landmark study on the effect of psychosocial treatment on patients with metastic breast cancer. I read about it in an interview with him in Bill Moyers' book: Healing and The Mind.

The result can best be summarized by the following statement by Bill Moyers. "When I read about your study, it just seemed so commonsensical that people who get their feelings in the open, who have the support of loving friends and family, who are able to distract themselves from pain, and who know they're not unique in suffering or alone in dying are going to be happier and more hopeful, and therefore better able to cope with disease."

My question is this: Other than "virtually," have any of you ever been in a bipolar support group that helped you?

23 comments:

Gianna said...

Hi Susan,
Good question...
Every bipolar support group I've went to in real life absolutely never met my needs.

Since I was a psychiatric social worker I found that I tended to "go to work" while there and could not really get for support for myself. Not just because I was a professional, but really because I've always had better coping skills then most of the people in the groups...

Here online it's a different world where I feel like I'm truly with peers.

I do certainly consider anyone with a psychiatric diagnosis as my peer in a greater sense. It was this sense of being like my clients that made me such a good social worker...it was obvious my clients thought there was something different about me and I was able to work with the "difficult" people no one else wanted to work with...something that has strengthened my dislike for the members of my past profession by and large. (mental health professionals in general who do not regard us as equals)

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Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
All very good points. Thanks for sharing a "professional perspective" on this.

I must confess that I did once call about a bipolar support group and my conversation with the leader was so depressing that when I hung up the telephone, I had to go to bed for four hours.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Chrysti,
That's great news. Glad you're a "closet reader" and thanks a million for the award.

Susan

Jazz said...

Susan--
I considered it...my therapist was running one, but I had a hard enough time opening up to him enough to just get through my taking medication issues, that I didn't think I could talk to a bunch of strangers deeply enough to get anything out of it.

Wellness Writer said...

Jazz,
It's really interesting how different it is for me to "disclose" things in a blog through writing as opposed to opening myself up to total strangers in person.

Susan

Gianna said...

I have to say Susan, the fact that you disclose with what I assume is your real name is pretty gutsy...

I'm not there yet and don't know if I'll ever be...

I certainly dare to reveal a whole lot of myself here for those who will find it helpful...but this is not the stuff of small talk...

Wellness Writer said...

Gianna,
For me, revealing my name isn't "gutsy." Personally, I have no problem with people knowing who I am. I've written a memoir about my illness, Bipolar Depression Unplugged: A Survivor Speaks Out, and I'm working on a book on wellness.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm a normal person who spent a lot of years suffering from depression. I was diagnosed as bipolar and was really sick for a decade, and it took about four years to recover once I stopped taking 25 different medications.

And now I'm well most of the time. So, I hope my story helps others know they can be well.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that I live in a big city like Los Angeles, where there's no problem with "small-minded people" who might discriminate against me.

Susan

Gianna said...

well...I share stuff that could hurt my family of origin who were and are pretty messed up, but I do care about their privacy and I still worry about the fact that I don't know for sure what I want to do when I grow up...

I'm not sure I want potential employers reading this stuff...of course it depends who they might be...

otherwise I'm not embarrassed...I'm going to a blogger party in my town...I'm on the local bloggers list and I'll be "out" there. So I'm getting my toes wet in that regard...these are all sorts of bloggers and there isn't another mental health blogger so it should be interesting...

I've communicated with a few locals so far via email.

Wellness Writer said...

Gianna,
I certainly understand about respecting people's privacy. And since I'm semi-retired, I don't need to worry about future employers.

Actually, while I would never write anything if I couldn't use my own name, I have no desire to meet other bloggers in town "face-to-face."

So I guess we all differ in our comfort levels.

Susan

Gianna said...

well...actually I'm not so comfortable about it...I'm just giving it a shot!!

I suspect I'll feel an outsider...but I like to challenge myself from time to time...

I may not be able to attend, my period is late and I may be sick that day with endo.

Wellness Writer said...

Gianna,
Still, putting yourself out there must have some appeal. These days I prefer to meet people through writing, decide what relationships I want to pursue "offline," and do it that way.

Before I started blogging, that was never a possibility. Now, I think it's ideal.

Susan

Rob Johnson said...

Susan,

As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I attend a support group almost every Thursday night. It's a local chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).

I don't generally go there for support. There are times when someone might be in the same "state" that I am and we'll commiserate, but I primarily go to the group to help others which in turn helps me.

To be honest, I don't know if I'd want most of those who attend the group as friends. There are a handful who I enjoy seeing each week, but unfortunately, most require more support than I could possibly provide in a lifetime. I'm not quite sure if that's a horrible thing to say.

Rob

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Rob,
I don't think that's a bad thing to say at all. In my experience, there are some people who are so needy that they drain my energy, and I get little in return.

A few years ago I realized that I can't help people like that and it doesn't make me feel well to have them in my life. These days I only help people who are willing to help themselves.

Susan

marja said...

Facilitating a support group helps me immensely. It has been truly healing for me to do so. And, from what I gather from the people who come to my group, most of them find it very beneficial. We have been getting 18 to 22 out per meeting, even during the summer and at Christmas time.

My group isn't only for bipolars, it's for people with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders. We also have someone with schizophrenia that comes.

We have lunch together, always topped off with chocolates. A happy, loving atmosphere with interesting topics to discuss before we go into smaller groups to discuss more personal things that are happening for us.

Wellness Writer said...

Marja,
I think that yours is a very special group and your leadership makes it a welcoming environment for everyone!

Susan

Rob Johnson said...

Marja,

The group I attend/facilitate is like yours in terms of the range of illness, but yours sounds more fun.

Rob

Wellness Writer said...

Rob,
Marja's is affiliated with her church and she's been working at this for a long time. She may have some tips for you!

Susan

Rob Johnson said...

Susan and Marja,

I would gladly welcome any tips or insight.

Thank you,

Rob

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Rob,
I'll email Marja to let her know. I've never been in a support group-- other than this virtual one--so I don't have anything insightful to share on this topic. But Marja truly does!

Susan

marja said...

Rob: Check out the group's website at www.livingroomsupport.org. There are manuals there that you can download to give guidance. I think it's the spiritual nature of our group that make it what it is. Sharing God's love is central.

yuliana said...

Yes, I just recently experienced very supported in one group actually after being somewhat attacked my some members.
I have BP with rapid cycling, and my boyfriend seems to be "normal" at the moment. I just know we all have our mood swings but getting a nice message can change so much for somebody whose mood changes so much depending on circumstances.
For that reason, being a psych student, I wanted to study something about us, so things are going but I will welcome any participants who also would like to contribute. I am looking for spouses and partners of people with BP, who are over 18, have a partner with diagnosis of BP, and have lived together for at least 6 months. If you can help, please go to http://psyresearch.org/bipolar and enter this password bipolar3
If not,I still would like to hear your thoughts about trying to stay strong and getting through those "bad" days HaHa

Julia

Wellness Writer said...

Julia,
I'm done posting on this blog for now. If you want the info you asked for, you'll have to search through the archives.

I've posted 512 times in the last 26 months, and quite honestly don't have interest in going through all of my posts.

However, I suggest that if you truly want to write on this, "you'll research" people's blogs--because we've all provided a lot of information.

Susan