Read This Before You Join a Mental Health Support Group
Published August 15, 2021
More than 2 in 5 Americans say they’re struggling with mental or behavioral health issues related to COVID-19, according to the Center for Disease Control. If you’re feeling tense or blue, you may want to consider joining a mental health support group.
These groups can be a valuable source of effective and affordable assistance. Interacting with others who are having similar experiences may make you feel less isolated. You may also discover new information and coping strategies and build rewarding relationships.
Whatever you’re going through, you’ll find a wide variety of resources for many issues, including medical conditions and family matters. Find out more about what self-help groups can do for you.
- Ask your doctor. Your primary care physician is often the logical starting point. Talk with your doctor about your situation and what you’re trying to achieve. They may be able to recommend a support group or help you access other resources.
- Browse online. The internet makes it easy to research any subject. In addition to specialized support groups, you may want to contact clearinghouses such as Mental Health America.
- Check community resources. While many groups are independent, others are sponsored by various organizations. Hospitals, community centers, and local chapters of nonprofit advocacy organizations can give you more suggestions.
- Clarify your goals. Make sure you understand the difference between group therapy and support groups. Therapy groups are focused on treatment and led by health professionals. A support group promotes self-help and is often peer led.
- Discuss fees. Many support groups are free or ask for donations to cover expenses like rent and snacks. High costs and exaggerated claims could be warning signs.
- Sample your options. It may take time to find a group where you feel comfortable. Keep trying until you discover a suitable match for your needs.
- Share your story. It’s natural to spend time just listening when you’re new to a group. However, you may find it more rewarding if you try to disclose something about yourself once you feel safe.
- Think positive. Members may need to vent sometimes, but make sure the discussion focuses on coping and healing. Otherwise, you could wind up feeling less empowered than when you started.
- Bring a friend. Depending on the format of the group, it may be helpful to invite your partner or a friend who is in similar circumstances to join you. Check the rules first to confirm who can attend.
- Verify information. You may sometimes hear medical advice or other recommendations from members who lack professional qualifications. Be sure to talk with your doctor or check reputable sources before trying anything risky.
- Reach out. Helping others builds your confidence and may create new friendships. Show that you care by listening attentively and speaking kindly. Volunteer to make coffee or sweep the floor.
- Start from scratch. What if you want to create a new group? Try to find some allies who are willing to share the work. Contact national organizations who may provide assistance for local activities.
- Be discreet. Respect whatever level of anonymity and confidentiality your support group maintains. If you’re unsure of the rules, ask for more explanation.
- Stay safe. Most groups succeed in providing a safe environment, but you still need to take reasonable precautions. That’s especially true in online forums where some members could be insincere.
A support group could transform your life. You’ll be able to connect with others who face similar challenges and work together to achieve greater happiness and healing.
To living your best life,