Group Therapy – Contact Outside the Group Meetings?

I love support groups and group therapy.

They offer so many benefits:

  • A feeling of togetherness with people sharing similar problems;
  • Learning from the experience of others and from the way they cope;
  • Learning to overcome your fear of talking openly about yourself (which can be extremely relieving);
  • Experiencing that you too have something positive to give to others;
  • Receiving feedback from others, including the group leader (in all the groups I participated in, this was either a social worker or a psychologist), which can help you grow, strengthen your self-confidence and your ability to cope;
  • Improving social and interpersonal skills as a result from the interaction with the group members. This can include having to deal with people you don’t sympathize with and with being exposed to criticism (whether that is based on valid evidence, or on a personal issue of the critic – either way you can learn from it, especially if the other group members voice their opinion).
  • Receiving additional information about treatments, relevant events & activities, etc.
Group Therapy (http://blogs.voanews.com/photos/2012/03/08/march-8-2012/#photo_9)
Group Therapy (http://blogs.voanews.com/photos/2012/03/08/march-8-2012/#photo_9)

Two support groups helped me function and stay sane during the bitter times of my son D.’s involuntary hospitalization, and the subsequent phase of his drug abuse. Divorced, having to work full-time, and without family in the country – I had to cope with my only son suffering from schizophrenia and smoking synthetic marijuana – a toxic drug with psychoactive effects: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/spice-synthetic-marijuana

http://www.drugs.com/synthetic-marijuana.html.

As if someone suffering from schizophrenia needed more madness!

This hellish substance completely detached D. from reality and messed up his senses: He would smoke in his bed and stub out the cigarettes on the bed sheet; he probably wouldn’t even have noticed the first flames if the bed had caught fire. (We still have souvenirs from that glorious time: shirts, sweatshirts, and bed sheets decorated with brown framed holes.) He would vomit a lot, didn’t shower, and his room was a pig sty. Speaking to him was pointless, the words didn’t reach him – it was like there was nobody home in his brain.

One stormy wet night D. left the house at around eight in the evening and didn’t return.  Worried sick, I called the police after a few hours and asked them to search for him. They did a thorough job, but could not find him. Despite the tranquilizers I had taken I could not sleep. I pictured my son lying somewhere outside, wet and shivering, unconscious and dying of an overdose. (Just remembering this brings back the feeling of then…)

At five in the morning D. finally turned up, soaked from head to toe and water dripping from his clothes. His eyes were red and small, open but as if asleep. He was hardly able to utter an understandable word. Totally stoned, he had wandered around for about eight (8!!) hours, not able to find his home!

But those times are history. D. has returned to being his intelligent, philosophic, and very sensitive self, fighting his illness (and sometimes me as well – it’s not easy) with all his might.

And I’m in a new group, a therapy group (Free of charge – Hey, who says the Israeli healthcare system is all bad? [Israelis!]).

The group is great, but much to my chagrin, one rule is that the group members are not allowed to have private contact with one another outside the sessions. I don’t see the benefits of this rule and neither do most of the other participants. On the contrary, I think (therapy, support or other) groups can be an excellent place to meet new people and build meaningful relationships (as I have done with people from previous groups), because within this special framework you get to know the other very closely, with his problems, which is an ideal basis for any kind of deeper relationship. What do you think?

 

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20 Comments

  1. Wow. So much to discuss here heila. The first question is what is the reason given for not having the group members meet outside the sessions. If they make sense then follow the rules. If they don’t, fuck the rules.

    I’ve been in several group therapy groups over the years and each of them had different rules and agreements so you may want to just find one that fits YOUR needs.

    As far as synthetic marijuana …….. that’s a problem and a danger!

    But depending on the type, natural marijuana shouldn’t be ruled out depending on the individual. It all depends on why your son felt that he needed it.

    Marijuana in and of itself is not addictive where the chemicals in synthetic marijuana are addictive. Your son also may have an addictive personality which is not the fault of marijuana. I don’t know the circumstances.

    There is probably much more to the story anyway. But it sounds like this issue is no longer so that is a good thing.

    An interesting post indeed.

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    1. Thank you for reading, commenting, and liking the post, Tubularsock.

      Regarding my group, I like the fuck-the-rules option 😉

      For someone with psychosis any kind of marijuana is strongly to be advised against. Addictive personality – there was a time I thought my son was just that. But not anymore. When he believes in something he can be very determined and stubborn, like now, that he has decided to quit smoking.

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  2. Different groups have different rules, Heila. Coincidentally, I’ve been asked to do a proposal for visiting a hospital in Israel, and my proposal would definitely entail observing how Israeli group therapy differs from group therapy in the USA. Thanks for this post.

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  3. Wow Heila !! What a post !! You both have really been through the mill and it’s great to read that things are on the upturn. You are a wonderful Mum to stand by your son especially during those dark days. Have a lovely weekend. Ralph xox 😀

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    1. Thanks dear Ralph, but I was also a very tough mum. For two weeks I didn’t let him come home when he started smoking that shit… it’s a long story. Yes, fortunately we are in a completely different place today. Happy Sunday, King Ralph 😉

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      1. I really do understand why you had to be tough not only to teach your son a lesson but to keep your own sanity intact.
        I am so pleased that he has done a U-turn and not carried on the way he had and I hope that he stays clean and learns from the experience and maybe help others that are in the same boat as he was.
        I had a quiet Sunday at home. Another large load of wood arrived Saturday evening so spent Sunday morning making a tidy pile and covering it on the rear balcony.
        I hope you have a lovely week ahead Heila. xox

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