“I feel like my life is getting away from me.” Liz is a 38 year-old married, working mother of two young boys, one of whom has special needs. Like many mothers at this juncture in her life, she feels overwhelmed and swept along by daily logistics and responsibilities. The problems in her life feel very much outside of her control – doctor’s appointments, IEP meetings, work requirements, her husband’s emotional and physical inaccessibility. Liz allows herself precious little time for getting the support she needs from others and she has difficulty trying to find new ways of adapting to the challenges in her life. She refers to herself as “a hamster on a wheel”. Each night, Liz collapses into bed depleted and totally exhausted.
I recommended to Liz that she join our Mother’s Therapy Group. Mary Shuffleton, LPC, CGP and I co-lead this group together. We have noticed over the years of leading therapy groups at In Step, more and more women, especially moms, struggle with challenges like Liz’s. We see how mothers get dropped to the bottom of their own priority lists because they are simply too absorbed in taking care of everybody else. Even as they long for closeness and intimacy, like Liz, these moms talk about feeling increasingly isolated and disconnected from their loved ones and friends. Liz says she wants to “unpack those parts of herself” she’s had to put aside for so many years. She is tired of “forgetting who (she is) anymore.” Despite observing that they themselves are living in automatic pilot mode, Moms continue to struggle to prioritize themselves. Pithy albeit accurate quotes aside, – “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” “You don’t realize you are drowning when you are trying to be everyone else’s anchor”. “Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those around you” – women, particularly moms, have trouble taking action on their own behalf.
“Members of a cohesive group feel warmth and comfort in the group and a sense of belongingness; they value the group and feel in turn that they are valued, accepted, and supported by other members.” – Irvin Yalom
Irvin Yalom, the father of group psychotherapy, describes the enormous emotional power of group therapy – the group is a safe nurturing place for group members to connect and explore their feelings, thoughts, and interactions without the interruptions or distractions of daily life. The format of group therapy lends itself ideally to helping group members enact real change. No different than individual therapy, a group encourages members to examine and understand motivations, patterns of behavior, and feelings. But in group therapy, members have the added benefit of seeing themselves through more than just the therapist’s eyes. In a group, they take on interpersonal roles similar to roles they take on outside of the group and through sharing and connections, find new ways of being valued by others.
Many mothers yearn for the sense of belonging and acceptance Yalom speaks of. But their tendency is to put their longing on the back burner while they tend to others’ needs. Our Mother’s Group is a caring space for moms to reconnect with themselves and others.
If you are interested in joining our ongoing Mother’s Group, please call us at 703-876-8480.
Cathi Cohen, LCSW, CGP