Support groups can offer people who share a common disorder or ailment the opportunity to discuss their experiences, share their ideas and provide each other with emotional support. These coping tools can help those who lost a loved one, suffer from depression or battle an illness get advice, education and support.
Support groups can be held online, offline or via phone and are generally led by a facilitator, such as a nurse, social worker or psychologist. The advantages are numerous. For more information on the benefits of support groups and how to start one in your facility, keep reading.
The benefits of support groups
Regardless of the format, support groups bring those with similar problems together, which can provide several benefits to everyone involved.
- Decrease isolation: Often, people suffering from a disorder or ailment feel completely abandoned. A support group can help decrease feelings of isolation, and members may realize that—although their situation is unique to them—they are not alone in their struggles. Sometimes, group members can begin to identify with, and even develop a special bond with, one another.
- Increase coping skills: Support groups can help members develop more effective coping skills. Witnessing the coping skills of others, talking to those who’ve had similar experiences, and learning new ideas and strategies to better deal with challenges can help members feel more supported, empowered and able to deal with tough situations.
- Open communication lines: Some people may have difficulty openly discussing the feelings, fears and challenges they are experiencing. But since group members often go through some of the same struggles, they may find it easier to open up to one another. Plus, everything disclosed in a support group should be kept confidential, which can further open the lines of communication.
It’s easy to see the benefits of support groups, and starting one, although not effortless, can be simplified by keeping these considerations in mind:
- Confirm a need: Do you have an idea for a support group? Start by confirming a need, and then see if a group already exists in your area. Do its philosophy and goals support yours? If not, there may be a need for a new group.
- Find facilitation: You’ll likely need a team of facilitators to help lead your group. Make sure these leaders are available to accommodate the group’s meeting schedule. Facilitators should also possess a positive attitude, good listening skills and a philosophy that matches the group’s intended goals.
- Promote the cause: Once you’ve determined a need and recruited facilitators, you’re ready to finalize the details and promote them to your intended audience. Your local newspaper may have a section for meeting and event announcements. And some radio stations will announce meetings and events for local service groups, too. It may also be useful to distribute flyers or posters at local clinics, hospitals, pharmacies or on public bulletin boards. Be sure to post information about your group and how to sign up on your website. Imprint the URL on bandage dispensers, first-aid kits or hot/cold packs that can be handed out at your location. Promote your group to patients who may benefit from it with a direct-mail piece. Include a magnet imprinted with group specifics, such as meeting dates, times and contact information.
Remember, the benefits of a support group are numerous. Whether they offer someone a new idea, a place to express feelings or a friend to lean on, they may be just the thing to help someone through a tough challenge.