Sunday, February 21, 2010

Support Groups for OCD: Finding my People

In 2007 I had the occasion to join an OCD GOAL group(Giving Obsessive Compulsives Another Lifestyle). A support group using the GOAL model usually has a therapist who helps keep the group focused, and when we break into small groups, any new people meet with the therapist for an introduction to OCD treatment. The format at my group:
1. In large-group formation, discussion of some OCD-related topic selected by the Affiliate’s board. Each member present will be given an opportunity to share feelings and thoughts on this topic and may elect not to speak if he or she so wishes.
2. In small-group formation, goal planning. Led by a recovering obsessive-compulsive, each small group will help each of its members formulate a specific and concrete goal whose accomplishment in the interval before the next support-group meeting will advance the member in the attempt to recover his or her life from obsessive-compulsive behavior. The taking on of this goal is voluntary.
3. Socializing with refreshments.
The thought of attending a support group was second only to medication in terms of scariness in my mind! Especially the third part, socializing with refreshments, since I've had a battle with social anxiety. But the the chance to share my experiences with others who understood, and in turn to hear about their struggles and courage was extremely powerful, and the opportunity to choose a goal for the week of a concrete thing I could do to help fight my OCD was invaluable.

We had a phone and email contact list of members willing to be contacted during the week if you needed support for doing a particular exposure. Making an agreement to call someone before doing an exposure and and then after doing it allowed some members to accomplish tasks they never thought possible. I was still in the midst of my phone phobia, and didn't utilize phone contact very much, but the small group sessions increased the odds that I would find an goal for the week, and actually follow through.

Members showed incredible bravery in attending the meetings in spite of fears of driving there, or saying things imperfectly in front of others, or eating the snacks at break in spite of contamination fears, or admitting they had OCD, or being in a room full of strangers, or saying something that might harm someone else, or taking the slip of paper with the week's discussion question and answering without knowing for sure they really knew what the question meant.

I witnessed enough courage to know that it is possible to face OCD fears. If you think attending a support group sounds like an impossible task, remember that most of the people who come felt the same way. A good support group will encourage you to move forward, at whatever pace you can, and in the right direction.

One place to find a GOAL group is to contact a state affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. Some states have people working to start an affiliate, and are looking for interested folks. If you know of any other OCD support groups, let me know! I will post a list.

Related Pages:
International OCD Foundation Find a Support Group Database

Related Post:
Recovery Inc. Support Groups
Going Back to my OCD Support Group

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