Having a group of friends to talk things over with can mean the difference between success and failure in almost all areas of life, and it can be especially important in dealing with mental illness. Even just a few people who “get it” can be a tremendous support. But how to find them?
Support groups come in all types and sizes. There are groups of people living with specific conditions, and groups for the family members of people with those conditions. There are groups for substance abuse and alcohol, such as AA, which is found in almost every town in America.
Types of support groups
Peer support groups are often led by someone who identifies as a member of the group, and focus on personal sharing and emotional support.
Psychoeducation groups are usually led by a mental health professional and focus on teaching members more about the condition or the treatments of it, such as groups that focus on CBT or ACT. Other groups teach skills like communication or problem solving. Groups of this nature are a great way to make contact with other people who are facing similar issues in their lives and can become a place for socializing as well.
Religious groups of all kinds can serve this purpose, too, and often include people from many different walks of life who can support each other and share new perspectives on situations and difficulties.
How to find a support group
Scheduling and distance can present barriers to finding and joining groups, but it should be realized that more and more of these types of groups are springing up all over the country, so doing some research on groups in your area will probably not be a waste of time.
Groups can be found through recommendations of a health care provider or insurer, through word of mouth from friends and neighbors, or through the internet. Online support groups are also starting to gain currency in a wide variety of formats and structures.
Pros and cons
It can be hard to get started with a new group, all kinds of anxieties start to pop up: what if they don’t like me, or I don’t like them? What if it gets too intense, or isn’t relevant to my needs?
It’s easy to think of things to worry about, but hard to just take that first big step of going out and trying it. Even if you’ve tried a group before and it didn’t help, all groups are not the same, and the next one you try might be right for you. But when you finally find that group that really helps, it’s all worth while.
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