Young adults are in a natural state of anxiety. During this transitional life stage, they deal with dating, career choices, self-definition and a myriad of other complex issues. Combine these concerns with an anxiety disorder during this already confusing time, and the challenges can be incredibly difficult.
The Anxiety Network, a support group at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, offers a place for young adults (out of high school, ages 18 – mid 30s) who are struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and/or anxiety symptoms. The group, led by Jennifer Welbel, LPC, provides psychoeductation on OCD and anxiety disorders, along with professional and peer support.
“Many anxiety and OCD support groups tend not have age specifications,” says Ms. Welbel. “This support group is geared toward young adults living with OCD and/or anxiety disorders, and as a result, creates a common ground.” Ms. Welbel says that the groups discuss issues specific to young adulthood such as friendships, dealing with parents, roommates and employment issues, as well as issues specific to OCD and anxiety disorders, such as how to manage symptoms, medication concerns, and brainstorming coping strategies.
“Everyone worries,” says Ms. Welbel, “but excessive worry and anxiety that interferes with your life and impairs your functioning may be a sign of a larger issue, like an anxiety disorder.” And anxiety looks different at different ages — Ms. Welbel points out that key milestones of young adulthood are made more complicated and less enjoyable when anxiety disorders or OCD are also present. “I saw a gap in treating this specific age group and, being a part of this age group myself, I wanted to fill it.”
“Anxiety disorders can be isolating,” says Ms. Welbel. “This support group helps break through that isolation.” Young adults in this group self-assign homework and determine what topics they’d like to go over that day, things like problem-solving anxiety-provoking situations, brainstorming exposure ideas, or discussing the stigma that sometimes comes with OCD and/or anxiety disorders, all over pizza that Ms. Welbel provides. “I facilitate the discussion, but I really want participants to lean on each other and learn from one another. Group therapy like the Anxiety Network makes a great adjunct to individual therapy because it allows participants to brainstorm, bounce ideas off each other, and to get some emotional support if they get ‘stuck’ on a tough individual therapy homework practice.”
Ms. Welbel received her MA in Counseling from The Family Institute at Northwestern University and is currently a Clinical Fellow in the Institute’s Anxiety and Panic Treatment Program. She specializes in using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and exposure therapies (ERP) to treat children, adolescents, and adults with obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, such as trichotillomania and hoarding, anxiety (e.g., social anxiety, school refusal, panic disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, and driving phobia), and depression. While in her Master’s program at Northwestern, Ms. Welbel received additional training in cognitive behavioral therapy and saw clients at The Family Institute and at the Center for Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital.
The Anxiety Network meets in downtown Chicago (8 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 500) every other Monday from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., and is $30 per session. Advanced registration is required.
For more information on The Anxiety Network, The Family Institute at Northwestern University, or to speak to Ms. Welbel, please contact Colleen O’Connor, Content & Grant Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-609-5300 ext. 485.
ABOUT THE FAMILY INSTITUTE AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY – For 45 years, The Family Institute at Northwestern University (www.family-institute.org) has been committed to strengthening and healing families from all walks of life through clinical service, education and research. An affiliate of Northwestern University, The Family Institute is a unique, innovative not-for-profit organization, governed by its own independent Board of Directors and responsible for its own funding. The Institute offers a wide range of high quality mental health counseling through our staff practice and our sliding-fee scale Bette D. Harris Family and Child Clinic, where we are committed to serving at-risk, under-resourced communities. The Family Institute also operates two nationally-renowned graduate programs in marriage and family therapy and counseling psychology in affiliation with Northwestern University, and conducts cutting edge research projects that lead to a better understanding and treatment of mental health issues.