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Support Groups. Therapy. You Make the Call

Are you a support group kind of person? Are you a big believer in talk therapy?

Why do I ask?

Because it is as predictable as the sun rising in the east that sooner or later, some well-meaning person is going to suggest that you consider a support group or therapy to deal with your caregiving stress.

Now I am all about stress busters; unfortunately, my stress buster of choice is lots and lots of Starbucks.

To be clear, I get that it’s useful to share feelings in a support group with people living through similar circumstances (i.e., dealing with the challenges of an elderly loved one). Or that talking to a trained, presumably neutral, professional about your caregiving issues could be beneficial.

In my case? Not so much.

Support groups? Picture that Progressive Insurance commercial (see the link at the end). Maybe you know it. Stilted conversation. Irrelevant comments. Dreary setting. That kind of feeling like, “How long before I can come up with an excuse to get out of here? (I could have BEEN in that commercial!…although I might be mixing this up with my long-ago singles group experiences.)

You block out a valuable hour in your packed schedule to show up for the meeting only to find that usually one person dominates the hour with a blow-by-blow account of every grim aspect of caregiving that he or she experienced during the previous 7 days. At the end of the meeting what is there to say? It’s been fun? See you next week?

My one experience with talk therapy was serendipitous and happened a long time ago. My employer at the time changed insurance plans, and a limited number of counseling sessions was offered to the employees as a free benefit.

Free? That’s all I needed to hear to immediately make an appointment for my first one-on-one session. I can’t remember a whole lot about the session itself. I did stretch out on a couch (no joke – I wanted the full experience) and searched my mind to come up with something requiring counseling support. I settled on my inability to really cut loose and throw caution to the wind when it came to making decisions and expressing myself.

The result of that session was a very nice 50-minute conversation with the counselor that ultimately led to my purchasing a RED Honda Accord SPORT HATCHBACK (which I then proceeded to keep for the next 12 YEARS!).

Progress? Perhaps. But I never went back. So maybe you can understand why I view recommendations to join caregiving support groups or therapy with the same skepticism as the recommendation to think happy thoughts and write in a gratitude journal.

I do feel bad about that. (But not bad enough to sign up!)

As always, when caregiving, it is important to make the choices that are right for you.

For myself, I take heart from these words – posted in response to someone else who questioned in an online forum the value of therapy:

“I am a therapist and my mom is in assisted living. I have also seen a therapist …and I have clients who have come to me to talk about their situations…. Talking helps a lot, however self-care is soooo important. Set some boundaries and limits and take care of yourself.”

My stress-busting advice? Start setting boundaries BEFORE you find yourself drowning in caregiving responsibilities. Then, if you’re lucky, you just might be able to spend your limited free time somewhere other than a dreary auditorium or a therapist’s office.

Like maybe…Starbucks!!

What’s your opinion on joining a support group or a therapy session? Comment below.

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