What is a Support Group?

Amy Hunter

A support group is an organization dedicated to helping people deal with a particular problem. Support groups typically help people deal with illness, job loss, and addiction. There are also groups that help people accomplish a common goal, such as a writers' group. Support groups are typically run by volunteers, and meet in person. There are also virtual support groups, available on the Internet, but traditionally, support groups meet in small group settings.

Support groups help others in need.
Support groups help others in need.

There are several types of support groups available. The people that make up a group managed self-help support groups, are all people who suffer from the same condition, such as cancer, bereavement, or obesity. There is typically no charge to attend these sessions.

Support groups meet in small group settings.
Support groups meet in small group settings.

Professionally operated support groups are groups of people with a common condition that meet together under the direction of a professional trained in counseling, such as a social worker, clergy member, or psychologist. The professional will guide the conversation and keep discussion on track; however, there is ample time for the participants to speak as well. Hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, and other institutions are the typical homes of professionally operated support groups. There is sometimes a charge for these meetings.

Doctors may be able to recommend the best support groups for patients.
Doctors may be able to recommend the best support groups for patients.

There are challenges associated with participating in a support group. Depending on the area and the condition, it can be difficult to find a suitable group. In cases where the condition is relatively rare, the person lives in a small community, or the condition is one that precludes easy travel, an online support group may make the best choice.

Churches typically host a variety of support groups.
Churches typically host a variety of support groups.

While traditional support groups have years of research to back up their value, the relative newness of online support groups means that it is not fully understood whether, or to what extent, these groups provide value to the participants. The unfortunate problem with online groups is there is no real way to verify the story of everyone who participates. This can create a scenario where people seeking attention may spend time on these support sites fabricating stories and tearing down the trust of the community. Many feel that support groups that meet in person provide the most benefits.

Hospice agencies generally offer bereavement support for families.
Hospice agencies generally offer bereavement support for families.

Finding the right support group may take a few tries. While doctors, counselors, and friends can recommend a group, ultimately, the person participating must feel comfortable in the group and with the people who are participating. It can be tempting to attend the support group that meets at the most convenient time or closest to your home, but the people who make up the support group and their attitude will play a big part in the support group experience. If you are not comfortable with the first group you attend, try another, until you find one that allows you to feel at home.

Many people reach out to virtual support groups online.
Many people reach out to virtual support groups online.
Support groups provide a comfortable setting for people to discuss issues.
Support groups provide a comfortable setting for people to discuss issues.
People often seek out support when dealing with emotional trauma.
People often seek out support when dealing with emotional trauma.
Support groups can help people deal with the loss of a loved one.
Support groups can help people deal with the loss of a loved one.
Support groups may provide help for people dealing with a serious illness.
Support groups may provide help for people dealing with a serious illness.
Writers' groups provide a place for people to share their work.
Writers' groups provide a place for people to share their work.

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Discussion Comments

Sandysoo

I need a support group for dealing with Asperger's Syndrome.

anon73320

How do you get into a "support group"?

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