So I’ve been to a good number of open support group meetings for class between last semester and this semester. This attendance allowed me to get an idea of what the surrounding Buffalo community has to offer in the way of supportive mental health services as well as to learn how various groups function. I’ve had the opportunity to attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, an Eating Disorder Support Group, two different Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings and I will be attending a Survivors of Suicide Grief Support Group meeting next week. And there are two things I’ve picked up on that seem to be span across all of the meetings:

  • These groups are wonderfully therapeutic for the participating members because they have an opportunity to share their story as it develops. They get to talk of their past struggles, their effective and ineffective coping mechanisms, their failures and successes and their plans to make their story progress towards a happy ending. And each of the members there, when the meeting is facilitated correctly, are able to give and receive feedback. I also noticed that when I and another colleague were present, it seemed as though the more distraught members tended to take the opportunity of having newcomers present to do a quick run-through of their story again. A refresher. Which helped them put things in perspective and reflect on how far they’ve come (or haven’t) and to get some extra feedback from other members. They’re going through the healing process together and part of that process is getting their story out there and having other members identify with them.
  • Each of the facilitators for the meetings were recovering/healing from the struggle that their group faces. The leader of the NA meeting was 2 years clean but still recovering. The leaders of the SAA meetings were both recovering addicts at different degrees of struggle and the leader of the Eating Disorders group had struggled with an Bulimia for a number of years. When this was brought up at each of the meetings, the attendees unanimously agreed that they are more comfortable being lead by someone that has been through what they’re going through and can understand the thought processes behind their struggles. That’s not to say that someone that hasn’t dealt with those addictions couldn’t adequately lead, but to the members I had the opportunity to speak with, they claimed it would take a little more effort on the part of the leaders to prove themselves knowledgeable about the subject and empathic enough to effectively lead.

I’ve learned many other things from these meetings but these are the two things that stuck out most as they were evident at all of them, and I’m excited to learn more from the coming ones. It’s been interesting to see and hear firsthand the struggles that people in our own city deal with every day and what community support groups are doing to help them out.

With hope,