Support Groups for Postpartum Depression

Support Groups at Pacific Post Partum

By Linda King, Staff

In addition to the telephone support line, we offer Mother’s Support Groups. Our support groups are a safe place for women to talk openly about their experiences. A number of counseling/facilitating staff members have used a support group themselves in their healing journey. All of our counselling and facilitating staff are mothers who have experienced and resolved perinatal distress.

The groups are weekly two-hour sessions, each with up to eight members. We currently have groups in Richmond, North Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Cloverdale and two in Vancouver, with two additional groups opening this Fall (one in Burnaby and an additional group in Vancouver).

When a mom joins the group for the first time, she can expect to be welcomed warmly. Our groups are “open ended,” meaning that when a mom joins, she will likely meet moms who have been there for varying lengths of time and in various stages of recovery. This can be very helpful to both the new mom and the present members. It provides hope to the new mom that her well-being will return, as she can meet others who are learning positively. Moms join and exit the group depending on their needs. The groups are not drop-in, as it is very important that there is a sense of consistency.

On the first night, we go through the guidelines including confidentiality and its limits. During an opening round, the facilitator and present group members introduce themselves to the new mom telling a bit about their experience, what brought them to the group and perhaps what it was like for them to come on their first night. This can help the new group member to feel more at ease. The new mom is invited to introduce herself and she can say as much or as little as she is comfortable with. I will often hear the new mom say that she can hear parts of her story in all the other mom’s stories. She is often quite relieved that she can talk about what is going on and know she’ll be supported and not judged. She knows she is not alone.

The following is what happens in the postpartum groups at the Pacific Post Partum Support Society:

  • Women come and begin right where they are;
  • A set agenda for the woman is not imposed. Women work at their own pace, in their own way, with guidance and support from the facilitator and the other group members;
  • It is acknowledged that the woman has expertise about herself;
  • Women begin to tell their stories;
  • Initially, women are amazed at how similar the themes of their stories are to that of other women;
  • Women talk openly and honestly about the realities of their lives. As they release the difficult feelings and thoughts, space is made for the feelings of joy;
  • The woman and her process is honored and trusted;
  • The group works together to begin to externalize the myths of motherhood;
  • Women begin to see that perinatal depression/anxiety/adjustment is not about personal inadequacy, but is tied in with myths which place high expectations on mothers, by others, the woman herself and society;
  • The woman will begin to have the mothering role fit the self, rather than the self fit the mothering role;
  • Women acknowledge their self worth;
  • She begins to learn, as a Mom and as a woman, self-care strategies for getting in touch with her own unique needs and wants;
  • Women begin to write and rewrite their own descriptions of motherhood. (This writing and rewriting will continue all through motherhood);
  • She will gain more insight into how to keep more central her needs, wants, capacities, limitations, experiences and hopes.

Goals of the Support Group

  • Provide safety (guidelines);
  • Offer hope;
  • Lessen isolation;
  • Women support each other;
  • Women share experiences;
  • Recognize and build on strengths;
  • Validate women and Mother work;
  • Encourage self-care;
  • Explore and normalize feelings;
  • Increase sense of identity;
  • Increase self-esteem;
  • Increase knowledge and skills;
  • Encourage personal growth;

If you are interested in attending a support group, call our telephone support line to speak with a counsellor: 604.255.7999

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