Are Support Groups A Good Alternative To Therapy?

On a Tuesday morning in June, several people were huddled around a table at the women’s networking and co-working space The Wing in New York. While the club is no stranger to hosting several events involving celebrities, motivational speakers and career coaches, this time, the tone was quite different. The event was titled “Navigating Through Transitions,” and it served as a support group where women were allowed to share their experiences and hear from other people going through similar issues.

Topics included everything from breakups to career transitions, and several in attendance offered their best advice, consoling others in the room who were close to tears. The entire meeting was cathartic, and when it was over, many reported feeling like they just attended something akin to therapy.

“I’m going to therapy as well, but I’m open to all sorts of support ― be it mental health or even spiritual health,” said Gina Roco, 31, an event attendee and member of The Wing. “Even though I didn’t speak, I think being able to listen to other people’s perspectives can help you, and you can commiserate together. I’m curious to know what other people are going through because when I’m by myself, I’m only thinking about my situation ― thinking that I’m the only one who’s going through that ― but here, I know that it’s not the case.”

Similarly, MNDFL, a guided meditation studio in New York, also regularly hosts what they call “support sits,” which are gatherings anyone can attend to reflect on and discuss how they’re feeling about a certain topic. After the restrictive Alabama abortion bill passed in May, the company recently hosted one for those who identify as women.

Facilitators encouraged attendees to spend some time quietly focusing on the emotions they had as a result of the policy. Post-class, attendees talked about the kinds of feelings that came up after they realized they weren’t alone in their experiences.

“I believe community is something that happens at the intersection of shared experience and support,” MNDFL founder Ellie Burrows said about the inspiration behind starting the sits as part of the company’s meditation offering.

And, of course, these aren’t the only kinds of support groups available for people. Just a quick Google search will reveal several options, ranging from targeted meetings for issues like grief or alcohol abuse to general ones for simply navigating life.

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