What Are Support Groups and How Can They Help You?

Support groups are safe spaces, designed to help individuals discuss any number of issues pertaining to an illness or life struggle that they may be experiencing, with individuals who are experiencing the same or similar issues. The objective of support groups, ultimately, is to help participants feel less alone and find additional strength to navigate the complexities of the problem they are facing. Support groups allow you to connect with people in similar situations, which makes many people feel less isolated. Talking to people who are in similar situations can also give you more freedom to say what you really feel and can also help you realise you’re not alone.

Often, people come to counselling ready to make a change in their lives but are not always sure exactly how to get themselves to do it. In a group setting, you’ll not only hear of how people have struggled, but also how they’ve overcome the challenges in their past. Support and encouragement from group members can serve a cheer-leading role, providing positive reinforcement as you actively work toward your goals. Support groups typically target specific issues or illnesses. For example, there are support groups for those living with grief, and there are support groups for those who have received a chronic illness diagnosis, such as cancer. Support groups are also very common, and have proven to be effective for helping those experiencing any number of conditions, from alcoholism to depression to obsessive compulsive disorder.

Is a support group right for me?

Finding a support group can be beneficial to your mental health. Here are some benefits to this approach.

Knowing That You’re Not Alone
A support group can provide you with the reassurance that you’re not alone in your mental health journey. Groups are made up of people who are experiencing the same or comparable issues. When you’ve experienced trauma or other intense emotional situations, it can feel like you’re alone and the only one who has these feelings. As part of a group, you see and hear first-hand from people who’ve felt those emotions or had similar experiences.

A Sense of Belonging
In a group session, you’re surrounded by people who know what you’re going through because they’re going through it themselves. You don’t have to feel like an outsider because everyone in the group knows exactly where you’re coming from.

A Network of Support
People who have been through the same situations have a different perspective than those who haven’t. You can get advice and support from others who have been in your shoes without the fear of being judged by someone who doesn’t understand.

Gain Perspective
When you listen to other people talk about their struggles and problems, it can help you gain a little bit of perspective about your own struggles. That kind of connection can help you feel understood and can also help you see that there’s hope because other people have gone through the same circumstance and survived.

Express Your Feelings
The moment you realise that you’re not alone and are in a safe environment, then you’ll feel comfortable with sharing your feelings and problems with the group. This can provide therapeutic benefits and can provide a healing experience, especially if you suffer from grief or addiction. You’ll find that these people are non-judgemental and will commend you for your courage and openness.

Learning New Things
Support groups provide advice and resources for dealing with certain problems, and members share their milestones and success stories. Some of them mention the strategies that helped them with their recovery. Some support groups teach coping skills and learning tools. They’ll also offer recommendations for books, therapists, and websites to use along with the group meetings.

Reducing Stress
As you work through your concerns, emotional issues, and mental health problems with your group, you’ll notice a reduction in stress levels. This is a good sign that progress is being made and you’re feeling the positive effects of group meetings. The more you air out your problems, the less of a problem they become. That reassurance that you’re not alone also helps reduce that added stress and anxiety.

Why Should You Join a Support Group?

You should join a support group if:

You feel isolated and alone.
Your financial situation does not allow for individual counselling.
 You feel that you have gotten stuck in individual counselling and could use more support.
There is a feeling of hopelessness about being able to overcome your issues.
You want to be held accountable by like-minded people who understand you.
Individual counselling seems too intimidating, but you want to move forward in life.
You want to learn from people who have similar struggles as you.

Whether you are taking the first step towards your mental health or have been in counselling for a while, a support group can be a great addition to your self-care practice. People who want to root for you and truly understand you are an immensely powerful advantage. That is one of the main benefits of support groups. It is crucial to have emotional support from family and friends, along with the support and knowledge of a medical professional. However, support groups can help you in ways that neither the people closest to you nor professionals can. As a result, they are an excellent complement to both of those resources. Consider seeking a support group today.

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