The Power of a Group: Overcoming BFRBs Together

By Laura Chackes, Psy.D.

In the journey of recovering from Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs), finding support and understanding from others who share similar experiences can be a game-changer. BFRBs, such as Hair Pulling Disorder (Trichotillomania) and Skin Picking Disorder (Excoriation Disorder/Dermatillomania), can be very isolating and challenging to cope with alone. However, the power of a group can be transformative, offering a safe space for healing, growth, and connection. 

Here are the top 5 benefits of being in a group of peers who are collectively working towards recovery from their BFRBs, along with some quotes from those in recovery from their BFRBs:

  1. Feeling Seen and Understood

Many people with BFRBs live their lives thinking that they’re the only ones who do these behaviors. They often feel very alone because their shame prevents them from talking to others about their struggles with BFRBs. In a group of other BFRB sufferers, members can openly discuss their struggles and triumphs without fear of judgment. This sense of acceptance fosters a healing environment where individuals feel understood and validated, which can be particularly empowering for those who have felt isolated and misunderstood in the past.

“The course and group support really helps me with feeling seen and understood when being with others who are having similar struggles. I wasn’t able to talk about my bfrb before the course, but now I am able to talk about it with people close to me, and my therapist. So this course really helped me open the door to healing when I didn’t think healing was possible. “

  1. Encouragement and Motivation

Being part of a group in recovery from BFRBs can be an incredible source of motivation and encouragement. Witnessing the progress and success of fellow group members can inspire individuals to stay committed to their own recovery journey. Celebrating each other’s victories, no matter how small, reinforces the belief that progress is possible and instills a sense of hope for the future.

“The support group has been pivotal in my management of my bfrb. We have the opportunity to share in our struggles, successes, and set our new monthly goal.” 

 3. Learning from and Helping Others

Within a group, individuals share what has worked for them, which encourages others in the group to try those same strategies. Helping others also makes group members feel good and encourages them to keep showing up to the group, even if they haven’t had the best week, because they want to show up to help others.

“For me, there is also something effective about the combination of both the sense that you are being helpful to others who are going through similar things while also being supported yourself.”

  1. Accountability and Support

Accountability plays a crucial role in recovery. In a group setting, individuals are more likely to stay committed to their goals and treatment plans because they know they are not alone in their struggles. Group members will often say that they thought of other members throughout the week and that these thoughts kept them moving towards their goals.

“Group has been very helpful for support and accountability. Since we all went through the same program there is a shared experience that makes it meaningful when everyone discusses both challenges and successes.”

  1. Reducing Shame and Isolation

Sharing experiences with a group who understands the nature of these disorders can help alleviate shame and isolation. By seeing that others also struggle with BFRBs, the negative judgments of themselves start to break down. As group members’ self-judgments and shame reduce, they often begin to resume going places and doing things that they had been avoiding.

“It was really powerful to reduce the sense of isolation and shame that I felt. I think this is both because it helped me realize that there were others dealing with similar challenges and that they were generally really helpful, supportive people that I enjoyed interacting with. I would not think about negatively judging them for having a BFRB – so why was I judging myself so harshly? It broke that self-judgmental way of thinking for me”.

“I tend to feel so alone living with my bfrb. There is so much guilt and shame associated with this condition. I tend to repress my struggles in the everyday, as most people would not understand and be judgemental. This gives me a safe space to share openly, free of judgement.”

In the journey of recovery from BFRBs, the power of a group cannot be underestimated. By offering shared understanding, empathy, encouragement, and practical coping strategies, groups provide a nurturing environment where individuals can heal and grow. Through ongoing accountability and support, group members often make progress more quickly than they do in individual therapy, and they remain in recovery much longer. 

Because of these reasons, I have focused solely on group treatment and coaching for adults with BFRBs over the past decade. Leading these groups are truly the most rewarding part of my job. Witnessing the healing that occurs through the connections with other group members is so moving that it often brings me to tears. 

If you’re an adult with a BFRB, we have a few options for group support, therapy, or coaching. If you live in Missouri, we are now enrolling for an 11-week group therapy program that combines the online course with an hour a week of virtual therapy. Each week you will watch a one-hour video that teaches a strategy and provides specific action steps for the week. At the end of each week, we will meet as a group to process how each of you did with the action steps, while providing support and help in working through any obstacles. The next section of this group starts August 22nd, and we only have a few spots left so if you’re interested, enroll now here.

If you are an adult with a BFRB but you do not live in Missouri, or if you’d prefer to take this as a course rather than as group therapy, we have opened another section of the course to start on Wednesday, August 23rd. To learn more or sign up, click here

If you’re not ready to dive into a program yet, but want to learn more about BFRBs and receive some support from others in the BFRB community, you can join our Facebook group, Overcoming Skin Picking and Hair Pulling: Help for BFRBs. This group is open to any adult with a BFRB, parents of children with BFRBs, and therapists wanting to learn more about BFRBs.