Coming along to a support group for the first time can be a daunting experience for many. Most importantly, our support groups aim to provide a safe environment for you to connect with others, perhaps say a little or a lot about your cancer experience, or simply listen to others.
First and foremost, you are very welcome to attend one of our support groups to see if this is something that will be helpful for you. We do what we can to make sure each participant experiences our groups as safe and beneficial. We also ask each participant to commit to providing that safety and support to others in the group, with a sense of mutual respect, a willingness to listen and to maintain confidentiality, so what is talked about stays within the group.
Who else will be at a group?
Participants are women and men, usually from the local area, with one thing in common – their direct experience of cancer, either for themselves, or in the carers’ group – someone who is close to them and they are supporting, like their partner or family member.
The groups are not limited to one type of cancer, or one phase of treatment. Sometimes a participant may have been only recently diagnosed; another may have finished treatment and is rebuilding their life. The groups are diverse, inclusive and respectful of each participant’s background.
Who leads the group?
All groups are led by qualified facilitators and counsellors. In most cases our facilitators have also had direct experience of cancer, having had a cancer diagnosed and treated or helped another with the day-to-day realities of diagnosis, treatment, symptoms, fears and uncertainties. At Life Force we recognise the benefits of a peaceful mind, and following the group session there is a guided meditation
What gets talked about?
The aim of our groups is to invite personal reflection and sharing about what is happening for each participant in relation to the cancer and its impact. Sometimes this might be simply to say how the treatment is going, what’s it like to be back at work, and other times it’s an opportunity to connect with deep feelings or insights that emerge through talking.
The facilitators ensure only one participant is talking at a time, and invite the others to practise attentive and non-judgemental listening, listening to the other person’s experience rather than our reaction to their experience.
The groups are not a forum for cancer advice, and they are not “therapy” for psychological disorders. While some participants may be seeing a psychologist or mental health professional individually, our facilitators keep the group focused on the day-to-day experience of participants, and make sure there is time available for each person to share within the group. While we ask that each group member listen attentively and respectfully, participants do not have to take on a sense of responsibility for what another might be expressing. The trained facilitators are there to follow-up on a participant who may be upset or struggling.
How do the groups “work”?
The groups meet weekly within 4 “terms” or 10 week periods across the year. Each meeting is 2 hours from start to finish, including an initial “checking in” time where each participant can share or simply listen to the others in the group. There is time for a break and a cuppa, and then the meditation leader will talk the group through a guided meditation that is relevant to the group’s needs and interest.
How much do I have to pay?
Lifeforce is a not for profit organisation that relies on donations. We ask that each participant makes a contribution to assist if possible. This is between $10 and $15. If you are not working or can’t afford to contribute you are still very welcome. If you can afford a little more than others, your donation will be very much appreciated.
What are the benefits
This is not a result-driven exercise, however, visit our stories page and hear from cancer survivors and carers, each person’s story and benefit may be different because everyone’s need is different. The common theme is the benefit of ongoing and weekly support as you navigate a difficult diagnosis or that of your partner, friend and family.
You don’t have to do this alone.