If you’ve ever found yourself in need of a little extra help but needed support that went beyond your family or friends, you might have considered joining a support group. Support groups help people through many different kinds of challenges they may face in life such as substance misuse or grief counseling. Support groups make it so people don’t have to face hardships alone and are able to connect with others with similar experiences to their own. There are many different support groups out there, so it is important to understand what kind of support group is right for you and how to identify if you have found the right group.
What is a support group?
A support group brings together people who share common experiences or concerns. The groups provide people with an opportunity to share their personal experiences and find advice or helpful information to overcome challenges or learn to cope with situations.
Why are they important?
Support groups exist for a variety of reasons and help individuals with many kinds of challenges, from substance misuse to mental health counseling. Support groups help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness by helping create a community for those who need it. Some people may believe that they are alone in their struggles but upon joining a support group realize that they are not alone. The mental health and substance misuse crisis has also been on the rise due to COVID-19 with depression rates among adults three times higher than normal, making support groups more important than ever.
What to look for in a support group
Just because you find a support group that meets all your standard needs, doesn’t mean it has to be the perfect fit for you. Your support group should make you feel good about attending and comfortable and safe expressing your personal experiences. There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding on a support group. First and foremost you want to make sure the group is accepting new members and is focused on supporting the challenge you are facing. You also want to make sure that you are able to commute to the group's location and that the group is held at a time that fits into your schedule. It is important to feel a connection and sense of belonging amongst your support group. Consider the size of group you are most comfortable interacting with before making a decision, because one size does not fit all!
Here are questions you should ask yourself when choosing a support group:
- Do I like the structure of the group?
- Do I feel comfortable with the person who runs the group?
- Do I relate to the other group members?
- Do I feel safe sharing my experiences with the group?
- Do I feel like my privacy is respected?
- Do I enjoy the group?
- Do I feel like I am receiving valuable information?
- Do I feel better after attending group meetings?
Finding support groups in virtual times
You can find support groups in many different ways, from being referred by your primary care doctor or a mental health professional to hearing about it from family or friends. You can also utilize online tools like Pieces Guide that help you easily search for resources in your community with a few simple clicks. Pieces Guide is an online browser that has up to date information on resources in your community. While some support groups have shifted their format from in person to virtual due to social distancing and COVID-19, they still have a valuable impact on individuals. Support groups are more important now than ever due to feelings of increased isolation and loneliness because of social distancing. Some public health crises, such as the opioid epidemic have continued to escalate at alarming rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. People struggling with substance misuse need a place to turn to and find support among people who truly understand their struggles. If you are looking for help, don’t hesitate to start searching for resources in your community.
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