I Attended Demi Lovato's Free Group Therapy Session On Her Tour

Written by Paige Montford, medical school student at St. George's University

CAST Centers is a treatment facility based in Southern California that Demi Lovato accredits to her sobriety and also helping her manage her mental health and eating disorder. Demi is a recovering drug addict who currently has 6 years of sobriety under her belt, has Bipolar Disorder and struggles with Bulimia Nervosa. Her goal is to bring awareness to Mental Health and erase the taboo stigma associated with it.

Not only am I a HUGE Demi Lovato and Lauren Jauregui fan, but depression and anxiety is something I have struggled with in the past. As a result my mental health and emotional wellbeing has become my #1 priority in my life-- above everything.

When I was going through a tough time it was difficult for me to first, realize what it was I was feeling and experiencing. Second, at what point it is appropriate to seek help. The amount of time I spent in that “funk” could have been decreased and the severity of my symptoms could have been lessened if I knew then what I know now. The time spent in the “funk” caused me to experience an immense amount of not only emotional but physical pain, illness and behaviors that were not accurate representation of my character and myself as a person.

This is the second tour Demi has brought CAST Centers on which provides free group therapy before every concert to her fans. This sort of thing is unprecedented and I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it. I learned that they named their treatment center CAST  just because of the mere function of a cast in the medical field.

Keywords…support, as it heals. They provide practical, unbiased medical support and therapy as their patients heal from their personal psych issues. I am appreciative that Demi uses her platform to bring Mental Health Awareness to the forefront of mainstream media. She is allowing others to realize that they are not alone, that it’s okay to admit that you don’t feel great emotional and its okay to ask for help…sooner than later. 

At each CAST on Tour group therapy session, there is a small group therapy exercise and a guest speaker to share their experience with mental health and how they coped and overcame. The speaker at the Miami stop of the tour was Lauren Jauregui, from Fifth Harmony. I was shocked to see that Demi herself actually attends the Cast therapy sessions.

She briefly spoke about CAST’s mission and introduced her friend and speaker Lauren. She even stayed for the entire session. To me that showed that she is serious about her Mental Health Awareness mission and supporting the speakers that so bravely share their story. They are being put in a situation where they are asked to be vulnerable and share such sensitive information about themselves. As appropriately implemented, the session had a strict no phone policy to create a safe space for the speaker anyone else who shared.

Before Lauren spoke one of the directors of the CAST Center gave a quick small group exercise. We were to split into groups of 2 or 3 and we were given the instructions to “Share 3 things you love about yourself”.  The 3 things I shared was…

  1. I love that I accept and love myself.
  2. I love that I have learned I am in control of my life, happiness and emotions.
  3. I love that I am a free spirit.  
  4. Just to add an extra one for good measure…I am so fucking proud of myself for working through my depression which allowed me to follow my dreams of becoming a physician.

Lauren was visibly and admittedly nervous to share but appreciative of the opportunity to potential help others. She had a typed speech prepared which seemed to allow her to better organize her thoughts. She was anxious but as she spoke, her honesty and truth allowed her be present in to the moment and she gradually became more relaxed as the session went on.

At the end of her speech, Lauren took questions from the audience and this was when her personality and charisma shined brilliantly. Her ambiance was electric and emotional which brought upon a tangible aura of gratitude and happiness felt by everyone in the audience. The energy in that room was one of love, non-judgment, empathy and compassion; something that at times feels like it is missing from the world.

Lauren spoke on many things, but some points she made that really stuck out to me was… 1) Learning to accept and love yourself; 2) How an unhealthy relationships cause great emotional trauma and realizing you cannot rely on someone else for your happiness; 3) learning to accept her sexuality.  

She candidly shared how an unhealthy relationship destroyed her self-esteem and self-confidence. She relied on the affirmation of love from her significant other instead of herself. She became passionate when explaining that someone who says they love you but fails to show that love in a productive, healthy way is NOT loving you the way that you deserve. Finding the strength to leave an unhealthy relationship can sometimes seem impossible, but necessary for personal growth and moving forward. One thing is clear, heartbreak is a motherfucker and can seem like something you will never, ever get over…until one day you do.

She felt like she was not living up to her image of being a “perfect” teen pop star, and the pressure was real. She struggled with herself internally while being on the X-Factor TV show and throughout the initial rise and success of Fifth Harmony. She admitted going through all of this while being only 17-years-old, heart broken and a public figure was a conflict of interest and worsened her depression. She was not easy to be around or work with, and she repeatedly expressed during the session that she “constantly wished everything would just go away”.

Last year, Lauren publicly (through an open letter to Dr. Trump on Instagram) came out as bisexual. She told a story of how her and her female best friend at the time where in love with each other as teenagers. It was hard for them to express their feelings toward one another which often resulted in bad arguments, bad decisions and behaviors uncharacteristic of them.

They were both raised in religious families which made them feel that their love for each other was sinful, which brought feelings of self-deprecation and shame upon themselves. These feelings of shame not only ruined their friendship but also weighed heavy on their self-esteem and self-worth. At the time she was not ready to deal with the topic but it allowed her to “face the music” and realize that her sexuality was nothing to be ashamed of. She is now a proud advocate for the LGBTQ community.

Lauren constantly reminded the group that mental health is a process and a journey that she is still on and will continuously be on for her entire life. Emotional well-being is not a quick fix, but a lifelong lifestyle. It is just as important to keep up with your mental health just as we do our physical health for our bodies.

Luckily, in my case, time did heal my wounds as well as various different therapeutic exercise, books, meditations and bunch of other things I came across on the internet. I am happy I can share my experience with depression and how I overcame it, as sharing has also been instrumental as a part of my healing process.

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