Getting The Most From Support Groups
Support groups have become a fact of life. As our connection to extended families has
been stretched and our mobility has found more and more of us trying to establish
ourselves in new cities, communities and neighborhoods, support groups are one of the
ways we connect with other people and find encouragement, education and resources to
help us cope with everyday life.
Finding The Right Group
To find the right support group, you have several avenues. We offer a large database
of support groups that meet In-person. We currently have listings for 14
different countries. We also have a rather large listing of groups that meet
Online. You can also check with
your doctor, local hospital or community medical center. If you city is large enough,
there may be a central referral agency or organization that serves as a referral source
for support groups. Also, don't be afraid to ask around - ask your friends,
colleagues, neighbors - they may be able to steer you in the right direction.
Meet With The Leader
Make contact with the facilitator or leader before you attend your first meeting. By
asking questions about the culture of the group, meeting times and space, what the
attendance and turnover rate is - you'll be better prepared and it will help you in
making the decision about whether you've found the right group or not.
Try to keep an open mind when you attend your first group meeting. The discomfort
and nervousness you feel could keep you from being open to the group experience. Try to
stay open and "ease into" the experience. Introduce yourself, but don't feel pressured
into sharing more than you're ready to. Let yourself absorb the feeling of the group
and start to evaluate how the experience feels, while being open to what is going on.
Unless it is a terrible experience and an obviously wrong fit for you, try attending
the support group a second and third time before making the decision as to whether it
will work for you or not. Similar to the advice about going on a second date before
making a snap decision - you're discomfort the first time or your glowingly
positive experience may be a fluke and it will take a couple more meetings to get a
real feel for the group.
It helps if you do some self-reflection about what you need and hope to get from attending
a support group and continue to reevaluate your expectations as you continue in the
group. Having a solid idea of what your needs are will help you to understand whether
the support group is helping you to achieve what you hope to. Also, it will help you to
stay in touch with your own personal challenges and goals instead of taking on another
group member's or the facilitator's idea of what you should be working on.
Remember the saying, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket?" Well, when you find a
support group that clicks for you, you may be tempted to depend on "the group" for all
your social and emotional needs. While support groups can be a wonderful place to
meet friends, and build a support system for your life, it is still important to try to
keep your life balanced with other experiences, family, friends, etc. A good support group
can be one element in a healthy, balanced life - but it is best not to expect the
support group to be everything.
The support group is a positive example of the human's adaptation to modern life, but,
like most things in life - you only get out of it what you put in. Remember to stay open
and try to stay true to your own unique self and your own unique situation. Becoming
involved in a support group can truly be a life-enhancing experience.