Support Groups: How Do They Help?
Whether you are dealing with a chronic illness, emotional problem, life transition, or want to enhance your health and well-being, your community may have a group where you can come together with people in the same situation. But maybe you are feeling a little unsure or skeptical about participating in a support group. What can you expect? How can a support group help you?
What Is a Support Group?In earlier times, barn raisings, square dances, quilting bees, and other community gatherings were places where people came together to celebrate, nurture, encourage, and console one another. Today, most of us need that same nurturing, encouragement, intimacy and consolation, particularly during difficult times. But face-to-face interactions within the community are becoming more and more scarce. If we are lucky, we get support from family and friends, but sometimes they cannot quite understand what it is like to be in our situation. A support or self-help group comprising people in the same situation may help fill the void.Support and self-help groups involve regular meetings where people experiencing similar problems or life transitions come together to offer each other support and encouragement. In the last 25 years, there has been an increase in the number of support and self-help groups.
What Kinds of Groups Are Available?Support and self-help groups address many issues. Common ones include:
- Chronic illnesses/conditions—such as cancer , diabetes , fibromyalgia , post-traumatic stress disorder , alcoholism , and depression
- Situational crises—such as divorce, unemployment, single parenting , widowhood , caregiving , and surviving a loved one’s suicide
- Personal growth and wellness—such as weight loss , smoking cessation , exercise , men’s and women’s groups
- Family support—which includes groups that help family members cope with a loved one’s illness or condition