From time to time, I run groups at the downtown Harbourfront Psychotherapy office, where I believe that therapy in a group session will be more helpful to you than individual psychotherapy. Almost always, however, you will have seen me for several individual sessions before you would be put in a group. I would need to ascertain whether you are ready for integration into a group and ensure that you are a good "fit" for the group in terms of your needs. All groups start with refreshments!
One of the most important rules of group therapy is confidentiality. Anything that is said or heard in group therapy is confidential and not to be repeated outside the group. As the group leader, I ensure that everyone is comfortable and has equal time speaking (unless they prefer not to) and that no one person dominates the group. Many find comfort in having others in the group who have gone through similar experiences and gain strength through the group.
We have a beautiful boardroom and smaller conference rooms (depending on group size) for our groups. We always start these off with refreshments. Most groups last for 2 hours and run for 6 - 8 weeks. On occasion, a group has asked if they may continue meeting for an additional period of time and this is OK.
Young Bereaved Spouses & Partners
Widowed at the young age of 34, I joined 3 different bereavement groups. Not at the same time, of course. I attended my first bereavement group and it definitely was not a good "fit" -- it was full of little old grey-haired ladies. The second bereavement group was no better; again, they were all significantly older and I did not "belong." I quit both bereavement groups after the first session. I was only 34, in the prime of my life, when my husband, Wesley White, an airline pilot, was killed in a plane crash. I had nothing in common with these little old ladies. It was even more depressing and discouraging to me.
Then I heard about another bereavement group run by a Toronto Psychiatrist named Dr. Ed Pakes -- specifically for young people, males and females. I joined and found it very helpful -- exactly what I needed and I actually looked forward to this bereavement group every week. Dr. Pakes retired approximately 15 years ago. I spoke briefly at a retirement reception for him.
I now run my own groups for bereaved young people at the Harbourfront Psychotherapy office. First I see the bereaved for one or two sessions to determine their "readiness" for group work. There are several phases to bereavement -- therefore, the timing has to be correct. They also have to feel comfortable being in a group setting for such a painful reason. New friendships are frequently formed out of these groups -- because what often happens is that one's friends disappear rapidly after a spouse or partner dies -- especially those who did things as a "couple "with you. The no longer want a "3rd wheel" so to speak. A new beginning, therefore, may mean forming new friendships. You will get a kind of empathy and compassion from others in this bereavement group that is not found elsewhere. Old friends, in particular, will pressure you to "get on with your life" and "start dating again" -- and you simply are not ready. Groups are understanding and supportive and understand why these bits of advice are so hurtful.
Newly Separated & Divorced Women
Whether or not this is of your choosing, all newly separated or divorced women share similar obstacles. First is the stark reality that now, you are on your own and have to support yourself. Fine if you have a career, but what if you don't? Or what if you worked at something just for fun, or for something to do, maybe it was part-time, but it certainly wasn't enough to pay the rent, the bills and all other living expenses. What about your home? Many have to leave, and find something new. Where to start? What about children and shared custody -- or what if their father doesn't want any part of parenting & responsibility -- how do you deal with the emotional impact on the children? The children -- how do you cope with having them 24/7 ? What about sex? Another unexpected result of separation and divorce is that your "couples" friends will often drop you like a hot potatoe. Why ? Because you are now competition. This, you would not expect, but it is a reality. It happens with widows too. You self-esteem may take a battering. And the biggest obstacle -- the loneliness.
In these groups we will tackle these issues, one per week. We will have the flexibility to change the order around according to group interest, and to bring to the table any new topics that the group wishes to discuss. From time to time, we bring in guest speakers. Sessions usually run for 10 weeks and are held at our downtown Toronto Harbourfront Psychotherapy office in the conference room.
Bereavement Groups for Teens & Children
These bereavement groups are run separately and grouped by age. Neither adults nor the school system know how to help bereaved children or teens. Their way of dealing with bereavement is to almost ignore the fact someone has died, and just carry on and pretend everything is OK. Not because they are callous -- but because they don't want to hurt the child/teen more by mentioning the deceased. This is not at all helpful to your child, who is hurting deeply inside. In fact, it is quite harmful.
I have specialized training in bereavement counselling, and with my experience as a school guidance counsellor, experience as a mother and training in art therapy, I use a variety of methods, including art therapy, to help children and teens move through the grief process, gently and at a pace that is therapeutic. I will meet with each child / adolescent individually before throwing them into a "group" as this may be too overwhelming for them. Teens, in particular, can be resistant. These groups are held at my downtown Harbourfront Psychotherapy office
Other groups that I run from time to time are:
Your loss may be that of a loved one other than a spouse or parner, such as a sibling, parent , close friend or even a pet. It may be a loss that is recent or never grieved. So often people deal with grief by keeping themselves extremely busy (i.e. distracted) , often at work, but althought the grief is buried -- it is only temporary. "Delayed Grief Reaction" as it is called, can cause all sorts of problems later on -- the grieving process can be worked through gently in a group. One thing is certain, you cannot avoid grief.
- Rape & Sexual Assault Groups
Your life is changed instantly on so many different levels: where you go, what you do, whom do you trust, and your self-concept. Future relationships and intimacy will likely be where the most painful repercussions are felt and your partner likely will not understand what you are going through. Through our groups, you will slowly learn how to take control of your life and to feel good about yourself once more. Although you enter the group as a victim, one of our goals is to have you leave the group feeling empowered and confident once more.
Harbourfront Psychotherapy • Beaches Psychotherapy • Toronto