‘Together We Thrive: The Peer Support Network’
How do peer support groups help with job-related trauma?
Written by Sapna Matthews, Assistant Senior Counsellor
“We rise by lifting others.”
― Robert Ingersoll
Peer Support Groups are as varied as the needs they are organized for. The common ones we all know about would be those like Alcoholics Anonymous, Cancer Survivors, Caregiver Connect, Dementia Support Group and so on. These groups provide much needed connection with others who are going through a similar situation. It provides people with a safe space to share the experiences that have altered their life in some way.
One such support group that EMCC helps facilitate is the Peer Support Group for those experiencing job loss. Experiencing unemployment can be traumatic. The loss could be sudden, like in the case of a retrenchment or resignation or it could be more gradual, like the planned career transition. Either way, it could bring life altering circumstances for self and for family members.
Emotionally, a job loss and subsequent lapsed time in finding another job could mean a loss in confidence and identity. Before the job loss, one has a place to go to every weekday morning, there was a schedule. It could mean financial stress which may result in anxiety or depression as one sees that their savings may not sustain them. It could also mean social isolation, as one would not want to describe the circumstances of their job loss to family and friends. This cutting oneself from social network could result in more loneliness and sadness.
So how do support groups help? Let me share about one of the recent support groups that I helped to facilitate this year. The group consisted of seven participants, all at different stages in their lives and from different industries. As we discussed the emotional impact of joblessness, I was able to see an invisible thread of empathy and understanding forming between the participants. As each member shared what they were going through, they felt a sense of relief because they were sharing with those who managed the same kind of struggles. When encouragement or advice was given, it would carry more weight and validity, because after all it was coming from someone who has lived it themselves.
Donald (not his real name) attended the Peer Support Group In March 2023. During the Peer Support Group, he was able to meet others for sessions every fortnight who were facing similar challenges in job search. He along with members of the Peer support group discussed what were the normal and expected responses to job losses, how negative thought patterns can self-sabotage our best efforts and that as long as we have strengths and resources we are never really devoid of chances. During the sessions he heard his peers narrate life stories which gave him new perspectives. The group also gave him unconditional acceptance and welcomed his open sharing of his experiences.
EMCC runs these peer support groups thrice a year. If you would like to sign up for our coming peer support groups for those experiencing unemployment, please visit this page Employment-focused Peer Support Group | Eagles Mediation & Counselling Centre Ltd (emcc.org.sg). They are typically facilitated by a counsellor who helps keep a healthy tone and positive outlook backed by counselling knowledge and experience. However, it is to be noted that the Peer support groups are not a substitute for professional career services. WSG (Workforce Singapore) has partners who support this area, like Maximus (www.maximussingapore.sg) and Ingenus (ingeus.com.sg).
As a counsellor, I feel its imperative to highlight that everyone’s experience with unemployment is unique and its important to be kind to yourself or to those who you know who are walking on this journey. Healing from the trauma of unemployment needs understanding, the right kind of peer support, self-care and resilience and would be just a matter of time to come out stronger.