Support groups make connections, get help

Support groups: Make connections, get help

If you’re facing a major illness or a stressful life change, you don’t have to go it alone. A support group can help. Find out how to choose the right one.

Support groups bring together people who are going through or have gone through similar experiences. For example, this common ground might be cancer, chronic medical conditions, addiction, bereavement or caregiving. Groups provide an opportunity for people to share personal experiences and feelings, coping strategies, or first-hand information about diseases or treatments. For many people, a health-related support group may fill a gap between medical treatment and the need for emotional support. A person’s relationship with a doctor or other medical personnel may not provide adequate emotional support, and a person’s family and friends may not understand the impact of a disease or treatment. A support group among people with shared experiences may function as a bridge between medical and emotional needs.

Structure of support groups: Groups may be offered by a nonprofit advocacy organization, clinic, hospital, your counselor or therapist. They also may be independent of any organization and run entirely by group members. Formats of support groups vary, including face-to-face meetings, teleconferences or online communities. A group also may be led by a professional facilitator, such as a nurse, social worker or psychologist, counselor, or therapist.

Benefits of support groups: The common experience among members of a support group often means they have similar feelings, worries, everyday problems, treatment decisions or treatment side effects. Participating in a group provides you with an opportunity to be with people who are likely to have a common purpose and likely to understand one another. Benefits of participating in a support group may include:

  • Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged
  • Reducing distress, depression, anxiety or fatigue
  • Talking openly and honestly about your feelings
  • Improving skills to cope with challenges
  • Staying motivated to manage chronic conditions or stick to treatment plans
  • Gaining a sense of empowerment, control or hope
  • Improving understanding of a disease and your own experience with it
  • Getting practical feedback about treatment options
  • Learning about health, economic or social resources

 How to find a support group: Information about support groups may be available from the following:

  • Your doctor, clinic or hospital, your counselor or therapist
  • Nonprofit organizations that advocate for particular medical conditions or life changes