• Lady J

All You Need to Know About Support Groups

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

Sitting in a circle with 5-10 people talking about being depressed, traumas,  family, triggers etc doesn’t sound like it could be helpful does it? Well, it actually can be quite helpful.What’s the fancy term for what I’m talking about - Support Groups! 

What is a Support Group?

According to Dictionary.com, a Support Group is a group of people with common experiences or concerns who provide each other with encouragement, comfort, and advice.  The experiences or concerns range from grief to chronic medical conditions to addiction to cancer just to name a few.  Support groups can and should provide opportunities to share personal experiences, feelings, coping skills or first hand knowledge about various topics relating to the group.

How Are Support Groups Structured?

Support groups are structured differently according to who sponsors (hospitals, clinics, community organizations, etc) the group.  There are online and conference call support groups, but the most common types are in-person groups. A professional facilitator such a nurse, social worker or psychologist leads the group.

Please note that support groups are NOT the same as group therapy

What Are the Benefits of Support Groups?

The common experience of the members in the group means that you are alone and your experience is not just limited to you - this alone is a major benefit!  However, MayoClinic.com says that you can get  more benefits from support groups such as:

  1. Reducing distress, depression, anxiety or fatigue

  2. Talking openly and honestly about your feelings

  3. Improving skills to cope with challenges

  4. Staying motivated to manage chronic conditions or stick to treatment plans

  5. Gaining a sense of empowerment, control or hope

  6. Improving understanding of a disease and your own experience with it

  7. Getting practical feedback about treatment options

  8. Learning about health, economic or social resources

When you look at all the benefits that support groups have to offer, I think it’s worth a try! 

Side note: Just because you attend a support group does not mean that you have to participate right away, it’s perfectly fine to sit and listen to what people have to say until you are ready.  If you decide to sit quietly, the group leader should support you in this decision and not make you feel bad for not participating.

How to Find a Support Group

Now that you know the benefits of going to a support group, let’s go into how to find a support group?  Again, I am referencing MayoClinic.com who gives 3 ways to find get information about finding support groups:

  1. 1. Your doctor, clinic or hospital 

  2. 2. Nonprofits organizations that deal with mental health

  3. 3. Specific health websites

Questions to Ask Before Joining

Mayoclinic.com list questions to ask the person or persons in charge before joining:

  1. When does the group meet and for how long?

  2. Where does the group meet?

  3. Is there a facilitator or moderator?

  4. Has the facilitator undergone training?

  5. Is a mental health expert involved with the group?

  6. What are the guidelines for confidentiality?

  7. Are there established ground rules for group participation?

  8. What is a typical meeting like?

  9. Is it free, and if not, what are the fees?

I have not been to a support group, but I would like to attend one for grief.  After the passing of my father a few years ago, life hasn’t been the same and I think it could be helpful to be around people who know what grief is like.  One thing that I have found interesting, is that people want you to make them feel comfortable about your grief, but that’s another topic for another day :)

My 2 Cents

  1. Remember last Thursday’s post about you are not meant to do ‘this’ on our own, well you’re not!  When you struggle with mental health challenges, life is hard enough and to be around others who understand your struggle helps. To know you’re not alone is a powerful thing.

  2. Like finding a good therapist, it may take time to find a good support group.  Don’t give up. Keep looking until you’ve found one!

  3. If you are seeing a therapist, you can still go to a support group.  During my research, I read that it can fill in some of the gaps you may have by being in a one on one setting

I hope this post was helpful and that you feel better equipped to face your challenges.  

Remember Brown Girls, you got this and you are NOT alone. 

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