Divorce is one of the most difficult transitions you’ll ever face. So, it’s important for you to build a great support team to help you get through it. And one of the easiest ways to get the support you need as your marriage ends is to join an online divorce support group.
Yet, easy support doesn’t always mean quality support or even the type of help you need. Not all online divorce support groups are the same.
Some support groups are simply unmoderated chat rooms. Others are part of a large organization that provides a standard set of materials for facilitators to use. And then there are groups like the ones you might find on Meet Up that fall anywhere in between.
Due to the immense differences in what defines an online divorce support group, you need to spend time researching what each group has to offer before participating.
Here are four questions you’ll want to consider before joining any online divorce support group.
1. How will the group protect your confidentiality?
One of the main purposes of joining a support group is to give yourself a safe space to share what you’re going through. You’ll need to know there’s zero chance of someone in the group using something you’ve said against you.
Only in a very secure environment will you dare to be honest and vulnerable, which is important to your divorce recovery. By owning and understanding your vulnerability you will begin the process of healing.
Some groups provide confidentiality by asking members to use pseudonyms instead of their real names. They also prevent members from connecting outside of the group’s online environment.
Other groups offer no provision for confidentiality and rely upon each member to police herself. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to do the healing work you need to do because you may not feel safe.
Another way online divorce support groups offer confidentiality is with an agreement you enter upon joining the group. The group facilitator may have a document each member must sign to join, or s/he may make the agreement part of the underlying terms of membership.
Whatever method of confidentiality the group provides, it’s up to you to decide whether those terms make you feel safe in your vulnerability.
2. Who is facilitating the online divorce support group?
If the group you’re interested in has a facilitator or two, you’ll want to know more about them before joining.
The best facilitators are those who have a deep understanding of divorce. They are typically divorce coaches, therapists, or seasoned facilitators who have been through divorce themselves.
Another vital role the facilitator plays is keeping the group on task and focused on the topic. Due to the nature of divorce and the emotional drama involved, it’s natural that some participants have a hard time not talking … on and on. A good facilitator will listen for those who are not speaking and encourage them to share, while also managing those who dominate so the group progresses, feels fair, and stays on point.
You’ll want to contact the facilitator before joining the group to learn more about his/her background and experience. By interacting with the facilitator, you’ll get a good feel for who this person is and whether the group is right for you.
If the facilitator does not provide a means for you to contact or interact with him/her before joining the group, then don’t join. That means the facilitator is not interested in getting to know you as an individual. They are more interested in filling their group up and getting paid.
3. Does the group have a clear structure?
The best online divorce support groups are carefully organized and not just open forums for kvetching.
Ideally, you’ll want a group that has a regular meeting time so you can count on getting support. A regular meeting time makes it easier to plan around your job or find childcare (should you need it). A regular schedule forces you to make time for yourself, this subject, and your growth.
To get the most out of the group, it’s critical to know the topic of each meeting in advance. This will allow you to not only verify that the topics meet your needs but also to prepare for each session.
You should also look for the stated outcome of participating in the group. A meaningful program will have a specific intention for each of the members to achieve. It’s this intention that will give you greater insight into how the facilitator will guide the group.
4. How does the group build a sense of community?
Joining an online divorce support group is about becoming part of a community so you don’t feel so alone and isolated. Ideally, the group is full of individuals who are willing to give and receive support by honestly and respectfully relating their experiences, questions, and insights.
But a community isn’t created just because you attend meetings together.
You and the other group members build a community within each session by openly discussing questions and sharing experiences. Outside of each session, you continue to do so by sharing challenges (if desired) and supporting one another.
Joining a good, vetted (look for testimonials) online divorce support group can be one of the best gifts you give yourself if you are considering, or have decided to, end your marriage. The group can provide you with the safety, camaraderie, resources, convenience, and experience you will likely need to navigate knowledgeably the transition from married to divorced.
Yet, because not all divorce support groups are the same, you’ll need to do some research before joining any. Will the group provide you with a safe place to heal, learn, and build the foundation for the next phase of your life?
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