Mental Health Expert Yohnit Spruch Talks About The Power Of Support Groups And Therapy - Exclusive

Trauma can be isolating. Oftentimes, when someone has experienced trauma, it can feel safe to self-isolate and carve out space to process. It may also feel exhausting to attempt to socialize or connect with loved ones, especially if you feel like you should pretend like everything is okay. However, healing is quite a challenge in isolation (via Medium).

"There is nothing that compares to hearing your own feelings echoed in the words of another person, which provides a significant feeling of relief," says mental health expert Yohnit Spruch. "Trying to explain in words some things that are beyond words sometimes feels like an impossible task. Those who are dealing with a similar situation get you immediately." That's not to say that all trauma is the same — everyone's lived experience is unique to them. But it can be reassuring to know you are not alone. 

Spruch is the head of emotional health at Circles, a mental health service that offers group support where people experiencing similar life challenges are matched into groups and meet online to give and receive emotional support, guided by trained, vetted mental health professionals. In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Spruch shared the benefits of support groups, as well as their advantages and disadvantages compared to individual therapy. 

Support group benefits

Support groups can be powerful because they provide a safe space for people to connect with others who are going through similar challenging experiences. "The opportunity to gain knowledge and insight from the challenges and experiences of others is also a unique benefit of support groups in mental health," said Yohnit Spruch. "Support groups harness the power of human connection, which has a significant impact on feeling more hopeful and connected at a time when you need it most." 

According to Spruch, support groups are mutually beneficial — people can feel like they are both giving and getting assistance. "People naturally tend to reach a stage in their healing journey when they want to be able to give back and walk alongside others who are facing a similar struggle."

Whether a support group can stand alone as your mental health treatment or if it should be a supplement to therapy depends on your specific needs. Specific life challenges like grief, chronic conditions, and relationship difficulties can work just as well in a group support environment as in stand-alone therapy. "Group support can bring a realization of hope by seeing others further along in the grieving process who are functioning and coping well and reflecting on how far you have come," Spruch said.

Group therapy vs. individual therapy

There are pros and cons to both group therapy and one-on-one therapy. According to Yohnit Spruch, forming meaningful connections with others going through similar situations can be very comforting. A mental health professional establishing a "safe environment" can provide security, encouraging more honesty in the things you might share and hear from others. It can also remove some pressure since the therapist isn't solely focused on you. In addition, group therapy tends to be more affordable.

However, some people find that being open and sharing with a group is intimidating. "A primary concern for people regarding groups, and why people find joining groups so daunting, is the idea that they need to be vulnerable in an unfamiliar environment and share private details of their struggles with strangers. It can take time to build up the courage to open up and share on a deep level," said Spruch. Furthermore, some things shared in a group setting could be triggering, especially for those still dealing with their own trauma and feeling emotionally vulnerable — but a skilled facilitator should be able to address these hang-ups in a safe and supportive way.

Circles offers small online support groups, guided by trained, vetted mental health professionals, to ensure that no one has to cope with life's challenges alone.