There are times in our lives when we should not go it alone. Divorce is one of those times. As a way to normalize the experience, experts report that divorce support groups offer unparalleled benefits. Feedback from someone who can mirror your experience and offer a “been there, done that” set of reality checks can offer comfort in a difficult time, as well as a stepping stone to personal growth. Sure, you could ask your divorce attorney or therapist for advice. But maybe you need an empathic listener who has been in your exact shoes. Maybe you need a divorce support group.
What are Divorce Support Groups All About?
Anyone acquainted with the emotional roller coaster of divorce is familiar with the 5 phases of grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Then, Acceptance. Rinse and repeat.
A divorce-focused support group offers a community of people with shared experiences to talk to in a group setting about commonly experienced challenges in the divorce process. Some divorce support groups are faith-based. Others are for women only or men only. The services provided by the group vary depending on the mission or purpose of the group. The groups have a moderator, facilitator or therapist who keeps the discussion on track. The goal is to sustain community and provide support. Some perks that divorce support groups also provide are:
- Lists of helpful resources
- Professional referrals
- Divorce education
- Seminars on various divorce topics
- Expert speakers brought in be the group facilitator
- Emotional support and bonding
Advice from a Local Expert
I recently sat down to talk to Dr. Wendy O’Connor, who runs a women’s empowerment group for those facing divorce. Dr. O’Connor explained that groups are wonderful for people who struggle with a variety of issues. Divorce groups are extremely powerful because they let people know that they are not alone and provide healing and growth opportunities unique to group settings.
Dr. O’Connor cited Dr. Irvin Yalom’s book, Lying on the Couch, to explain the benefits of the “support group model”. There are eleven factors that influence change and healing in support group settings, which are:
- Installation of Hope
- Imparting Information
- Altruism/sense of value in helping each other
- Corrective Recapitulation
- Interpersonal Learning
- Group Cohesiveness
- Sense of Accepting/Belonging/Security
- Catharsis/”Aha moments”
- Existential Factors/Being part of something larger than just us
These are tangible benefits which cannot be achieved in one-on-one counseling. The essence of the support group dynamic is to receive information, but also feedback and reflection from the group itself. Dr. O’Connor’s support group covers topics such as anger, setting boundaries, reunification, rediscovering your sexuality, and much more. Her women’s empowerment group (the word “divorce” is intentionally omitted, as it does not define who you are) meets weekly.
How Do I Find a Group?
Everyone’s needs are different, so it is important to find a group that meets your expectations. Some places to look for a divorce support group are:
- Psychology Today
- Christian Divorce Support
- Jewish Divorce Support
- Catholic’s Divorce Support
- Islamic Divorce Support
- The Lilac Tree
- Evryman Program
- Midlife Divorce Recovery
An experienced divorce attorney can suggest some local resources for group or individual support options which compliment the legal work being done by counsel. Taking the sting out of this painful process is the goal.