The “Birth” of a Depressed Anonymous Group. Judith Bouffiou, Ph.D. (Cand.), Olympia, Washington
Isn’t life just full of expected and unexpected challenges, synchronous happenings, joys and griefs. Your life and mine. Following is a synopsis of a time in my life when I experienced all of the above. The summer of 1991 saw the dissolving of a business partnership for me; a painful, but healthy decision. The counseling center my ex-partner and I operated had provided the community with a Domestic Violence/Anger
Management (DV/A M ) Program for court and self referred clients, plus each of us had a private practice. M y decision to dissolve the partnership was motivated by a number of reasons, among them a desire to go back to school, and to spend more time and energy in my private practice. Over time my private practice had evolved into a growth and development type of practice, which I loved doing. A long with the dissolution of the partnership came the decision to no longer do the DV/A M work. I had a desire to still give the community some type of community service, but what?
Then I remembered reading some time earlier in one of my professional journals about a man who had developed a Twelve-step program, Depressed Anonymous for individuals who suffered from depression. Like most therapists, a significant number of the people I saw (and still see) in my practice were experiencing depression to one degree or other.
The more I thought about the concept of Depressed Anonymous, the more intrigued I was, so I contacted the founder of Depressed Anonymous for information and details. Information was sent to me and that was the start of the first Depressed Anonymous group in Washington State.
From the Depressed Anonymous material I received, I photocopied, organized, prepared and prepared and advertized. I decided on a start time and date, sent notices to our local paper, our Crisis Clinic, therapists and physicians in this area, tacked up flyers all over town, and of course, lots of word of mouth advertizing. The Depressed
Anonymous group originally met in a group room at my office, and eventually moved to a local church when I moved into a smaller office space.
A s a therapist I organized, started, sponsored, and “mothered” the Depressed
Anonymous group for a time, before withdrawing to just being the phone contact person that people can call in for information. From the very first meetings, which had 8-10 people, a “home” group evolved; fine people, some of whom had previous Twelve-step experiences. One of fine traditions and legacies of Twelve-step groups is the willingeness of folks to be and do the supportive and necessary work (the glue) that holds the Twelve-step groups together. The Twelve-step tradition and service continues on.
As is often the case, I have received more than I’ve given as the person who organized and started this Olympia, Washington Depressed Anonymous group. Now that I’m not a person who suffers from depression, other than short term appropriate situational depression; nothing ever deep or prolonged. A s I organized and started this Depressed Anonymous group little did I know that I would benefit from the Depressed Anonymous process and group in such a personal way.
The Depressed Anonymous group had only met two or three times when my middle son unexpectedly died from a type of cancer that years before had taken his father. So, in a synchronous manner, for a time and in a different way, the Depressed Anonymous group supported me as much as I supported them. In my prior work as a nurse, I had often been witness to dying and death, also in my personal life. However, the death of one son and then a year and half later, the death of my oldest son (two out of three) have been devastating experiences for me.
So in many, many ways being the organizer and sponsor of the first Depressed Anonymous group have been an exceedingly enriching experience for me. A s mentioned before, because of the wonderful people in the group, and with great confidence on my part, I turned the operation of the Depressed Anonymous group over to the capable hands of the home group people. I remain the telephone contact. The Depressed Anonymous group continues to thrive and grow. Just recently I talked with a man from Portland, Oregon, who is thinking about starting a group in the Portland area
MY VIEWS ON DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS
Denise L ., Louisville, Kentucky
One of the greatest resources I’ve used in working with many depressed persons has been Depressed Anonymous. The transformation it causes in an individual’s life is truly miraculous. This stems from it being primarily a spiritual program of healing and recovery. It encourages a person to seek a personal relationship with God, whoever they understand him to be. In doing this it helps a person to look inside for healing, rather than in a pill or some quick “cure”. M any persons who suffer with depression look on God as a being who judges them harshly. This thinking usually leads to much anger towards God, which results in more negative thinking. I know this from my own
experiences with depression, and the angry relationship with God I had during those times. This is where Depressed Anonymous offers hope by getting a person connected to a group who also suffer with depression, and are working the twelve steps. In doing this, it helps a person come to a realization that it will only be through a power greater than themselves, that they will find sanity in their life. Depressed people cannot do this alone because of the compulsion to ruminate endlessly over negative thoughts. It is only through coming together with a group of people like Depressed Anonymous, that they are able to break the cycle of negative thinking.
A client I was working with is a good example of the above. H e spent his time alone and many countless hours thinking of all the disappointments in his life, which continually reinforced his depression. Then he started going to DA, and found that through being with other people like himself, he didn’t feel as alone as he did before. H e started sharing his pain, and found understanding and support. I noticed his face began to soften, and he started smiling more. Then I noticed his face began to soften, and he started smiling more. H e also found help spiritually from DA, for he started
working the twelve steps, and as a result he started trusting God more for his healing. H e is one of many persons I’ve worked with who have found help and encouragement through attending DA .
The spiritual emphasis of DA is it’s greatest strength. People come together and hear from one another how their higher power is healing and guiding their lives. They realize that in being part of the group they are not alone, and also encourage true healing. DA has been a wonderful healing tool in the lives of many depressed persons I’ve worked with. It will always be one of the greatest resources I use in my work. It is true that “it works if you work it.”