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Support Groups and Social Support


Table of Contents


Support Groups and Social Support

Health problems like cancer or heart disease and mental health problems like substance abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have an emotional side. And the same is true for certain life events, like being a parent or caring for someone who has a chronic illness. Your life changes. And you may need a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to. You may need a ride to the doctor or a night out. You need support.

Support takes many forms. You can find support in seminars and groups led by professionals, in groups of others who have the same problem, and in your relationships with family and friends.

If you have a support network, you will not feel as alone. You'll learn new ways to deal with your problem, and you may try harder to overcome it. Social support can play an important role in recovery.

Support groups and peer support

Self-help and support groups can be very helpful for some people. These groups usually consist of people with similar problems who meet to give support, practical advice, and encouragement to the people who participate in the group.

Self-help and support groups are different from counseling sessions. These groups may last for only a few sessions or they may be ongoing.

Self-help and support groups:

Joining a self-help or support group does not take the place of counseling. Some people who attend these groups also need to participate in regular counseling sessions with a health professional.

Self-help or support groups are not for everyone. Some people feel uncomfortable talking in a group. Attend a group meeting at least three times before you choose not to go back. Then you can make a better decision about whether taking part in a self-help or support group is good for you.

How to find a support group

Here are some ways to find support groups.

Look for a support group that works for you. Ask yourself if you prefer structure and would like a group leader, or if you'd like a less formal group. Do you prefer face-to-face meetings, or do you feel more secure in Internet chat rooms or forums?

Social support

Social support includes emotional support such as love, trust, and understanding, as well as advice and concrete help, such as help managing your time. Your family, friends, and community all can do this. They can make you feel cared about and feel good about yourself, and can give you hope.

You may get your social support from many people. You may play sports with one group of people, go to movies with another, and turn to family or friends to talk over problems.

You can look for support from:

Ask yourself where you get your social support. You may be able to forge a closer relationship with family members or friends. Maybe you know someone who you'd like to know better. You can join a club, or find a group of people with the same interests you have.

Improving social support

You may not have good social support. You may avoid other people. This may be because:

If you can improve your social support, it can help you deal with your condition. Here are some ways you can make your social support stronger:


Credits for Support Groups and Social Support

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jessica Hamblen, PhD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Last Revised January 9, 2013

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