You don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders alone. There are so many people who are going through the same dirt road as you. If you have a sickness or a stress-filled life, do not lose hope.

A support group is a gathering of people who are going through a rough time due to medical reasons, mental illness, or other personal struggles. Support groups focus on how they can help each other and how to live each day feeling better than yesterday.

Being in a support group provides a chance for different people to share their personal stories and struggles. This is also the space where they learn how to cope with the burden they are carrying and how they can proceed with treatment.

Getting facts about your medical or mental illness and receiving comforting words from your doctor are not enough. Also, your family members may not understand what you are going through.

Joining a support group bridges the gap between a person’s illness and their thirst for emotional support. This article will help you choose the right support group for you.

Types of Support Groups

There are three types of support groups that you can choose from. Different support groups cater to different needs. You should know which one best fits you.

1. Mutual Support Group

Mutual support groups focus on peer support interventions led by peer facilitators. The support group leaders are not medically trained and don’t give medical advice. Mutual support groups provide patient education to individuals with medical or mental health issues.

This type of support group supports the family members and friends of someone with medical or mental health issues. Usually, there are no fees when joining this group.

2. 12-Step Self-Help Group

Participants joining this group go through 12 self-help steps to recover. Participants of this group are dealing with addiction in gambling, sex, or substance abuse. This is one of many peer support groups.

Group sessions are free. Twelve-step groups also offer support for the addict’s family and friends.

3. Therapy Group

A therapy group is led by medical or mental health professionals. A professional therapist gathers people who have common issues and treat them as a group. Therapy groups cater to a wide range of medical and mental health problems.

Cancer support groups are examples of therapy groups. Joining a therapy group is not free. Confirm with your insurance provider if they cover the costs of the therapy group you want to join.

Advantages of Support Groups

Being surrounded by people who are going through or have been through what you are experiencing now is very comforting. You get to see these people become joyful despite their conditions. Here are the benefits of attending support groups that you should know about:

1. You Have a Better Understanding of Your Disease   

Joining a group offers a lot of practical resources in dealing with mental health conditions. They can recommend reading materials and tips on how to improve your coping skills.

2. You Don’t Feel Alone

Often, after attending their first meeting, people say that they no longer feel lonely and judged. They are happy to meet group members who are going through the same hurdles. This feeling gives them a sense of relief.

3. Your Social Skills Will Improve

Being sick for a while would cause you to withdraw from society. So, being in a group allows you to enhance your ability to interact with others better. You become comfortable mingling with other people again.  

4. You Can Express Your Feelings

Joining a group allows you to be more open about your feelings. This openness is good for your healing process.

5. You Become Hopeful

It is very comforting for you to see other group members progressing in their sickness. You become hopeful that you, too, can progress and get better.

6. Your Stress Level Is Reduced

You can work on your issues if you are consistent in your support group participation. You will eventually notice a positive overall reduction in your stress and discomfort levels.   

7. You Understand Yourself Better

Learning how to cope with your problems allows you to understand yourself and your unique characteristics better. A better understanding of yourself can help you move one step closer to your goals.   

8. You Are Given the Opportunity to Help Others

You feel pleased about the progress you have made that you want to help other people, too. It is time to give them the moral support they need. You’ll also feel better when you offer support to others.

9. Joining Is Affordable

Many groups let you join for free. For instance, support groups from churches or Facebook communities are free. If groups charge for their services, the fee is usually reasonably priced.

The Negative Effects of Support Groups

Indeed, there are many benefits to joining support groups. However, you should keep in mind that there are possible risks and drawbacks to joining one.

  • There are troublesome group members who dominate the conversations through complaints.
  • There is no respect for confidentiality from other group members.
  • You may receive inappropriate medical or mental health advice.

If you notice these red flags in the group that you’re in, it’s time to consider a different support group.

How Effective Are Online Support Groups?

Support groups are best done in a face-to-face setup. However, online support groups have risen due to the need for online support, which allows flexible attendance. Also, most people with problems are ashamed of being seen joining support groups due to stigma.

Online support groups are more common now due to COVID anxiety and the need to support everyone right away. The need to be able to support and reach out to more people also has to be considered.

There is nothing wrong with joining an online support group.  Just be aware that joining these groups has some risks involved. These risks are:

  • Not everyone is articulate when writing. Some may have a hard time expressing what they want to say in text format. This could lead to further misunderstandings.
  • Since you can be anonymous in the group, there is a likelihood that inappropriate comments can circulate during group meetings.
  • Spending more time online with your support group can cause you to distance yourself from your loved ones.
  • Due to the unlimited access to information, online groups are more prone to misinformation.
  • Other people might use this platform to advance their motives, like selling products or committing fraudulent acts. 

How to Find a Support Group

You can find a list of support groups from your doctor’s clinic, hospitals, non-profit organizations in your area, and the National Institutes of Health website.

Questions to Ask Before Joining

You may feel so agitated that you want to join a group right away. It is advisable to check the water first before diving in. Every support group has its own unique way of handling its activities. You should get all the information you need before deciding which one is best for you.

Here are some of the questions you can ask:

  • Does the group cater to all stages of the illness or only the worst cases?
  • Does the support group meet regularly or for only a few sessions?
  • Where does the group meet up?
  • What can be expected in a regular meeting?
  • What are the group guidelines during meetings?
  • Is there a professional facilitator or moderator present at every meeting?
  • Is a medical or mental health professional part of the group?
  • How can confidentiality be guaranteed?
  • Will the support group provide their services for free or with a fee? If a fee is necessary, how much will it cost?

While gathering all the important information you need, be aware of the red flags that may point to a problematic support group. These red flags include:

  • They guarantee that a cure is available and attainable.
  • The fees are unreasonably high.
  • You are required or pressured to purchase items or services.

How Do Group Members Make the Most out of the Group?

It’s all right if you feel uncomfortable speaking up in the first few meetings. This is a normal feeling for anyone. You should regularly attend to make the most out of the group. After a few meetings, you will feel more comfortable sharing your own stories and contributing to the group.

The sharing and exchanging of experience and knowledge between you and the other members will benefit everyone in the group. If you are unsure if this group is the best for you, try it out first for a couple of weeks. If you are positive that this is not the group for you, you can politely leave and look for another group.

Consider Therapy and Inform Your Counselor

You can also consider therapy or counseling if a support group is not a good fit for you. Let your counselor know that you are planning to join a support group. They can give you sound advice on which ones to consider. The emotional relief provided by a support group is not an alternative to the medical care provided by your doctor.

Be Part of a Group Now

Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) can provide the emotional support you need. You surely won’t regret joining a support group planned by KCC.

KCC offers group therapy given by certified, highly trained, and experienced therapists. You should definitely consider joining a support group. It will surely be worthwhile and rewarding.

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