Sarah Shuster
Sarah Shuster profile picture

Sarah Shuster

Peer Support Group Leader

Sarah leverages her lived experience as a primary caregiver for her sister battling Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma to create a space for other young caregivers seeking community and affordable alternatives to therapy. Sarah is a master’s candidate at Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work with a concentration in Clinical Practice with Individuals, Couples and Groups. Sarah plans to conduct support group sessions on a weekly basis.
Midtown East
Alma Office
$ $ $ $ $
portrait photograph of provider
“My role is to facilitate a group discussion...but ultimately you have the power to drive the conversation where you need it to go.”
If there is one thing you want someone to know who is considering your group, what would it be?
Caring for someone with either a chronic or temporarily acute health issue can become a traumatic and taxing experience on our mind and body. The simple act of engaging in group discussion can unlock an unexpectedly emotional and powerful healing mechanism within us. It helps us develop our own emotional awareness and better metabolize what’s happening in the moment. It also allows us to be more present for those closest to us. In this small group setting, participants will share their unique experiences and gain new perspectives and insights from others
Why did you develop a peer-led support group for millennial caregivers?
I wanted to create a space at Alma that didn’t exist when I was searching for support as a caregiver. I had very few friends in my age group who understood what I was going through and, as a result, I turned inward. I also couldn’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars per month on therapy during a time of financial stress. I yearned to connect with others my age who could help me feel seen and understood during my sister’s cancer treatment.
Sarah Shuster photo 1
Who is the right fit for this Caregiver support group?
I use the term “caregiver” in a loose way to refer to a person that is caring for or connected to someone with an illness. Caregivers do not only refer to primary or professional caregivers or those that are physically close to loved ones. Caregivers may include individuals who are physically far from those they are caring for. Caregivers can also include children, significant others, siblings, or friends of the person undergoing health issues. Individuals who are former caregivers and are interested in processing their experiences are also a great fit. Interested participants are encouraged to commit to 8 consecutive sessions.
What is unique about this support group as opposed to others?
Because traditional caregiver support groups skew toward older generations, this is a space where millennials can connect with people their own age (21 yrs-35 yrs). A unique element of this group is the intimacy developed between participants. Sessions are capped at 6 individuals to foster a safe space where each individual has the opportunity to share. Additionally, peer-led support groups recognize emerging research on the efficacy of groups led by individuals with shared lived experience and storytelling.
What is the format if the weekly support group sessions?
My role is to facilitate discussion among the group participants during the hourly sessions. Topics will include overcoming guilt, isolation, loneliness, complex inter-family dynamics, navigating difficult conversations, and more. Ultimately, group participants will have the power to drive the conversation where they need it to go. I will conduct brief phone consultations in advance of client’s first session to help extract cross cutting themes that participants are facing. Together, we will problem-solve together in active shared discussion. For awareness, this support group will not diagnose mental health conditions.
“This support group directly counteracts social isolation and instead builds community”
Interested in speaking with Sarah?