Mental Health is a significant issue that has only seemed to have grown worst and worst within these past few years. Out of all the different types of mental health issues that there are, one of the most common happens to be anxiety. Having anxiety can drastically impact the way we function on the daily, “The wide variety of anxiety disorders differ by the objects or situations that induce them, but share features of excessive anxiety and related behavioral disturbances. Anxiety disorders can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships” (National Institute of Mental Health, N.D, Any Anxiety Disorder) and this can be even more impactful within youth suffering from anxiety disorder, as they are going through such a crucial phase of development which can be halted or interfered with as a result of having anxiety.
Throughout this paper I intend on discussing the effects anxiety can have on people and trying to relate it back to group work that can be done on the topic. I will be acquiring this information through both sources as well as using my own experiences with anxiety. “According to the National institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience anxiety disorder” (Healthy Children, 2020, Anxiety in Teens is Rising: what’s going on?). Anxiety within youth is so common that it is essential that we start off by trying to figure out different effect’s anxiety can have on us and try to figure out if a client is suffering from it. Some of these effects include “Excessive worrying, Negative thoughts about one’s ability to tolerate emotions or future stress, Rapid Heart Beat and Sweating, Avoidance, Trouble breathing, and many other different effects can be contributed to anxiety” (University of Michigan Health system, N.D, p. 1.2).
A topic of concern for people with anxiety is how we can respond to a fight or fight response. “The fight or flight response is a big component of how people can react to a particular situation that is deemed dangerous by our minds, however for people with anxiety you are forced into a situation where worrying over takes you and not being able to know what to do can cause someone with anxiety to have a panic attack” (University of Michigan Health System, N.D). Something else important to note when trying to facilitate any group is to try and note the different things that can trigger a person into having in this case varying degrees of anxiety or in a worst-case scenario, an anxiety attack. The unfortunate thing about anxiety is that there is not a specially listed thing that can trigger someone’s anxiety.
Anxiety is something that can change from person to person, meaning that although something may get me super anxious it doesn’t mean that the person next to me will necessarily get the same level of anxiety that I do from that particular situation. Despite all the negative aspects I have brought up there are a lot of benefits to be had when it comes to hosting these group sessions for people with anxiety, rather then going about looking at the anxiety one on one with an SSW or Counsellor. Some benefits of doing group work for anxiety includes, “Knowing your not alone. there are many moments when you are suffering from anxiety where you feel like you are the only person who is feeling the way that you are, and that there is going to be no way of getting the help that you need cause nobody knows how you are feeling. However, by going to these group sessions you will get the chance to meet so many other people who are going through similar situations to the ones you are currently experiencing. This makes a person feel significantly less isolated and will hopefully allow them to be able to make some friends who know what they are going through” (Resources to Recover, 2019).
“Improving your Social Skills is another positive aspect to going into these group sessions. One of the common forms of anxiety is social anxiety. And when it comes to social anxiety people can struggle in social situations and overall prefer to avoid them as a result. However, if people with social anxiety are willing to make their way out to these sessions to participate, it will be able to help them get better with being around other people, and overall improve their social skills. From personal experience I know how hard It can be to take that first step and try to break out of your comfort zone to actually contribute conversation to these type of group activities, but in time you will be able to actually grow the confidence it takes to do so, and will slowly begin to notice improvements in how well you are responding to others, and that fear of being judged for what you will try and contribute will also dissipate as you realize that for the most part everyone in the group is there for similar reasons to you and are all there to hopefully support you on your journey to becoming less anxious” (Resources to Recover, 2019).
The last of many different benefits to participating in groups for people with anxiety ill be discussing here is “Being presented with an opportunity to learn about yourself. Sometimes the person we know the least is really ourselves, and when placed in situations like a support group where you are able to spill the metaphorical beans, and just talk freely to the people in the room about the different issues that maybe plaguing your mind, you will find that there is a lot of things about you that you may have kept deep down in your subconscious even from yourself. By learning more and more about yourself from these group session you will be able to start piecing together the parts of the puzzle that will help you to determine why you might be suffering from anxiety, it can help you find that point of origin where these problems started to derive from, and help you to try and find ways of coping with these issues” (Resources to Recover, 2019).
Many considerations must be made if facilitators want to offer up an effective support group that will be able to assist the people suffering from anxiety in the best way possible. The first of these is to understand that as previously mentioned different people will be dealing with different types of anxiety, and these different types of anxiety can be derived from different places. For example, youth dealing with anxiety that comes from stuff like Social Media, and Pressure from Parents are things that adults might not understand. For example, “Today's children and teens are constantly connected to social media. It's not surprising that their self-esteem―and worldview ―becomes connected to responses to social media posts. It's hard for them not to compare their life and social connections to what they see others posting on social media” (Healthy Children, 2020, Anxiety in Teens is Rising: what’s going on?). Students can also have a lot of pressure on them from parents as “Between standardized testing and a culture of achievement, today's youth can feel pressure to succeed in ways previous generations did not” (Healthy Children, 2020, Anxiety in Teens is Rising: what’s going on?).
The opposite can also apply here however as parents for example may be incredibly stressed out about being able to support their families or even be able to make ends meet at the end of the day, which could be things that youth may not be able to relate to. To put it simply one of the most essential things to note when it comes to wanting to facilitate the best possible anxiety based group, is that anxiety can work on a case by case basis, and that every single person suffering from anxiety will have their own sets of circumstances that may trigger their anxiety, or have their own reasons behind why they may have started developing anxiety in the first places, so keeping a zone that is very judgment where people can tell their stories is a big key in being able to help people open up about their anxiety. Being able to facilitate an anxiety-based support group when I fully get into the profession would be such a great experience. When facilitating my group, I would like to ensure that I provide the members of my group with the best experience I possibly could, and in order to do that I will need to take into account the different accommodations clients may need me to fulfil, to ensure they are getting the most out of these groups.
I also need to make sure I am utilizing my knowledge of anti oppressive based practice during these groups. To ensure my group is accessible for all and makes everyone feel like they are included it is my goal to make sure that all the members are given equal amounts of time to share the floor, and offer mutual aid to all the other members. “This idea of mutual aid basically means that group members are able to learn from each other. This is an incredibly significant component within group work and is viewed by many as one of the primary benefits of groups” (Morgaine and Desyllas, 2015, p, 238). “By allowing for these group members to all have opportunities running the floor, and being able to share their personal experiences with other members of the group will allow for the person sharing the experiences to feel empowered in that moment, and give all the other group members information and tips they may have other wise not known.
And since I will try to ensure that everyone in the group is given their chance to speak, it will give everyone that chance to feel empowered, and put everyone on the same playing field, having all the members on equal footing, and not just having the few people who got to talk in a session feeling like they are in a higher position of power then anyone else in the group who didn’t have either as much time to talk or anytime at all” (Morgaine and Desyllas, 2015). I also need to make sure that I do not accidentally make other members of the group feel like they are being marginalized or oppressed by the things I am saying. In order to do this I must first start off by leaving any personal biases I may have at the door, and try to establish beforehand any unconscious biases I may have developed from being around family, friends, or even from just witnessing the way the media can portray different things, and get rid of those as well, or at the very least ensure they are not getting in the way of my work. “Another thing I must take into consideration is that I maybe dealing with several different people who are all from varying different identity groups, and this means that I will have group members who are of different genders, race/ethnicities, socioeconomic status/backgrounds, varying different ages, and could generally just not have English be their first language. These could all be present in different group sessions and may leave me in a situation where everyone is of a completely different identity groups then everyone else, meaning I can not relate back to them as easily as I would have hoped” (Morgaine and Desyllas, 2015, p, 242).
This all relates back to one of the big points I keep preferencing when it comes to this anxiety based group which is that everyone has their own story and reasons for being here, and that the reason why someone may have anxiety could be related to one of these previously mentioned identity groups, and that their story may not be as easily understood by other group members or even myself without having experienced it ourselves. “For this reason I must use my anti oppressive practice, as well as a social justice approach to be able to understand how much privilege I truly have, and also use critical conscious to help understand the situations of anyone that may walk into a group session so I may give them the best help with their anxiety that I possibly can” (Morgaine and Desyllas, 2015).
- Healthy Children. (2020). Anxiety in Teens is Rising: What's Going On?. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Anxiety-Disorders.aspx
- University of Michigan Health system. (N.D). Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Basic Group for Anxiety, (No Publication #) Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://medicine.umich.edu/sites/default/files/content/downloads/CBT-Basic-Group-for-Anxiety-Patient-Manual.pdf
- Resources to Recover (Rtro). (2019). 7 Benefits of Group Therapy for Treatment of Anxiety, Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.rtor.org/2019/11/20/group-therapy-for-anxiety/
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (N.D). Any Anxiety Disorder, Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml
- Morgaine, K. and M. Desyllas. 'Chapter 6: Anti-Oppressive Practice With Groups' in Anti-oppressive Social Work Practice: Putting Theories into Action. Sage Publications Ltd: Los Angeles, 2015.