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Finding the Right Support Group

By May 1, 2014April 6th, 2021Blogs, Jennifer Lynch, Psy.D.

With Mental Health Awareness month upon us, this is a great time to ensure that you are getting the support that you or your family members need. Mental health affects not only the individual, but parents, siblings, and other relatives as well. Support groups can be especially helpful to other family members by providing psychoeducation on specific disorders and their treatment, support from therapists and other group members, the opportunity to discuss how others cope in similar situations, and a forum to ask questions and share experiences. Groups range considerably in their focus, structure, format, and composition. Below is a description of what you might expect from a support group and some tips for finding the right one to fit your needs.

Support groups typically meet for one hour each week. Some groups are designed to target a specific problem such as depression, obesity, or substance abuse, while other groups are more generalized and focus on improving social skills, coping with grief, or improving self-esteem. Groups may be formalized with an agenda, topics for discussion, and practice of specific methods and strategies. Other groups may be less structured, and are organized around questions, concerns, or struggles brought up by participants. Groups may be listed as having open or closed meetings. Open meetings indicate that the group is ongoing, which means that participants can join at any time and attendance is likely to vary from week to week. Closed meetings indicate that members began the group at the same time and are expected to attend consistently until the group finishes. This means that new members are not accepted once the group has formed and will need to wait until the next group cycle begins.
How can you choose the right support group for you?

  • Consider the above characteristics and prioritize those that are important to you. Remember to also consider the group’s location, fee, and target audience.
  • Consult with your physician or mental health provider to gather recommendations. Some support groups may even be offered at your current mental health treatment facility. For example, at Renewed Freedom Center, we offer a support group for parents who have children with anxiety or OCD, as well as some new programs for children/adolescents with social anxiety.
  • Contact the group leader prior to attending to clarify how the group is organized, get answers to any questions you may have, and see if the group meets your needs.
  • Research online support groups. Not all support groups require attendance at a meeting. Some support groups provide an online community with discussion boards for interaction.
  • Support groups are a great way to share your experiences as well as receive support from others who share your same concerns. Many people have never met anyone in their same situation, especially teenagers, and are relieved to meet others with similar struggles. Consider joining a support group as a way to build your social network and create an additional pillar of support for yourself.