SUPPORT GROUP: Make connections, get help
If you are facing a critical illness Or stressful life changes, you don’t have to go it alone. A support group can help. Learn how to choose the right one.
Mayo Clinic Staff
Support groups bring together people who are going through or have gone through similar experiences. For example, this commonality might be cancer, chronic disease, addiction, bereavement or caregiving.
Support groups provide opportunities for people to share personal experiences and feelings, coping strategies, or first-hand information about illness or treatment.
For many people, a health-related support group may fill the gap between medical and emotional support. A person’s relationship with a doctor or other medical staff may not provide adequate emotional support, and a person’s family and friends may not understand the effects of an illness or treatment. A support group between people with shared experiences can act as a bridge between medical and emotional needs.
Structure of Support Groups
Support Groups may consist of non- Available from for-profit advocacy groups, clinics, hospitals, or community-based organizations. They may also be independent of any organization and be managed entirely by group members.
Support groups vary in form, including face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, or online communities. A layperson – someone who has shared or shared experiences common to the group – usually leads a support group, but a group may also be led by a professional facilitator, such as a nurse, social worker or psychologist.
Some support groups may offer educational opportunities such as visiting doctors, psychologists, nurses or social workers to talk about topics related to the needs of the group.
A support group is not the same as a group therapy session. Group therapy is a special type of mental health treatment that brings together several people with similar conditions under the direction of a licensed mental health care provider.
Benefits of Support Groups
Between Support Group Members Common experiences often mean they have similar feelings, concerns, everyday problems, treatment decisions, or treatment outcomes. Participating in a group gives you the opportunity to get along with people who may have common goals and who may understand each other.
Benefits of participating in a support group may include:
- Reduce pain, depression, anxiety or fatigue
- Talk openly about your feelings
- Improve your skills to deal with challenges
- To gain a sense of empowerment, control, or hope
Improve your understanding of the disease and your own experiences
- Get practical feedback on treatment optionsLearn about health, economic or social resources
Support groups can have shortcomings, and effective groups often rely on a facilitator to help avoid these problems. These questions may include:
- Complaint-based conversations
Emotional entanglement, group tension or interpersonal conflict
- Lack of confidentiality
- No Appropriate or unreasonable medical advice
- Compare whose condition or experience is worse
The pros and cons of an online support group
The online support team provides benefits and risks specific to this format. Be sure to consider these factors before joining an online group.
Online group benefits include:
- More frequent or flexible engagement
- There may be no opportunity for someone in a local face-to-face support group
- Your doctor, clinic or hospital
- Nonprofits that advocate for specific medical conditions or life changing
When and how often does the group meet?Is there a host or host?Has the counselor been trained?is the mental health professional involved in the group? What are the guidelines for confidentiality?
Are there established ground rules for group participation?What does a typical meeting look like? Isfree, and if not, how much does it cost?
Red flags that may indicate a problem with the support team include :
- High cost of participation
- Guaranteed cure for your disease or condition
Pressure to buy a product or service
Take advantage of the support group
When you join a new support group You may feel nervous about sharing personal problems with people you don’t know. At first, you may benefit from simple listening. However, over time, contributing your own ideas and experiences may help you get more out of your support group.
Try the support group for a few weeks. If it doesn’t work for you, consider using a different support group or a different support group format.
Remember that support groups are not a substitute for routine medical care. Let your doctor know that you are participating in a support group. If you don’t think a support group is right for you, but you need help coping with your condition or situation, talk to your doctor about counseling or other types of treatment.
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- Pomery A, et al. Skills, knowledge to support group leaders and properties: a systematic review. Patient education and counseling. 2016;99:672.
August. March 3, 2022Delisle VC et al. Impact of a support group peer facilitator training program on outcomes for peer facilitators and support group members: a systematic review. BMJ Open. 2016;6:e013325.
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Hughes S et al. Experiences of facilitators and participants of long-term status self-management group programs: a qualitative synthesis. Patient education and counseling. 2017;100:2244.Bender JL et al. What is the role of online support from the perspective of a facilitator in an in-person support group? A multimethod study used by breast cancer online communities. Patient education and counseling. 2013;93:472.
- Embuldeniya G et al. Experience and Impact of Peer Support Interventions in Chronic Disease: A Qualitative Synthesis. Patient education and counseling. 2013;92:3.
Mo PK et al. Are online support groups always helpful? A qualitative exploration of the authorization and deauthorization process for participation in HIV/AIDS-related online support groups. International Journal of Nursing Research. 2014;51:983.
Understanding Psychosocial Support Services: Support Services type. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/emotional-side-effects/understanding-psychosocial-support-services/types-of-support-services.html. Accessed June 9, 2018.
Some level of privacy or anonymous
Online Support Team risks include:
- Written text may lead to misunderstanding or confusion among panelists.
Anonymity may result in inappropriate or disrespectful comments or Behavior.Online participation may result in isolation from other friends or family.Online communities can be particularly vulnerable to misinformation or information overload.An environment where people can use online to loot others, market products, or commit fraud.
How to find the support group
Information about the Support Group is available from:
- for specific medical conditions NIH website for diseases and conditions
Questions to ask before joining a support group
Support groups vary based on how they are organized and led. Before joining the support group, please ask the following questions:
- Yes Groups designed for people with specific medical conditions or stages of disease?
Are group meetings a fixed time or an indefinite duration? Where is the group meeting?
- No Appropriate or unreasonable medical advice
destructive of group members
- Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged