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Support Groups: Importance and Benefits

support groups are very important and have lots of benefits
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | March 9, 2023 (Last update: March 9, 2023)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website: www.lalitkumar.in

Support groups bring together people dealing with similar issues or conditions. These groups provide the members the opportunity to share their personal feelings, experiences, firsthand information, coping strategies, etc. The common ground of connection in support groups can be a chronic medical condition, disability, bereavement, care-giving, etc. Any support group is formed with the intention that no one should suffer alone if they are dealing with an illness or disability or going through a tough phase in life.

Benefits of Participating in Support Groups

In this write-up, we have discussed the importance and benefits of being a part of a support group. Keep on reading to understand why you need to be in contact with people who are dealing with or have dealt with similar conditions as yours.

1. You Feel Less Lonely or Isolated

While dealing with a disability, a serious medical condition like cancer, or a mental state like depression or anxiety people often feel lonely and isolated. When you don’t see others going through a similar condition you are more likely to get frustrated thinking why is it only you? But, when you participate in a support group, you know that there are others who are dealing with a similar condition as yours; some may even be in a worse position. When you interact with others dealing with similar issues you don’t feel lonely or isolated.

2. You Don’t Feel Judged

People feel judged when people around them do not understand what they are going through. But, when you get to discuss your issues with someone going through a similar condition you don’t feel judged. Suppose you are a person with a disabling medical condition. You are most likely to live in the fear of being judged if you talk about your need for intimacy or a relationship. This won’t be the case if you are participating in a support group and having a discussion with people who have gone through or are going through a similar phase.

3. You Can Talk Honestly About Your Feelings

Being a part of a support group means being with people who feel similar. In such a group you can talk openly and honestly about your feelings. If you feel weak or vulnerable, you can say so without hesitation or fear of being seen as weak. A support group is a place where you don’t have to conform to any pre-defined standards considered to be the ‘normal’. Here you will find people who would make you feel ‘normal’ for whatever you feel. So, you do not have to act or pretend to be ‘normal’.

4. You Learn Coping Techniques

Support group ensures that you are not alone in your battle against the tough situations in your life. People in the group share their experiences and you get firsthand information about tips and techniques for dealing with the challenges of your condition. Because someone has already walked the path before, you do not need to figure out everything on your own. Talking to people in a support group will help you find solutions to the problems caused by your condition.

5. You Can Stay Motivated and Hopeful

Hope and motivation are two very important factors that keep a person going during tough situations in life. Being a part of a support group you get both hope and motivation. Seeing people living life after overcoming challenges that you are facing currently gives you hope that things can get better for you too. You also get motivation when you witness others living a life similar to you with a positive attitude. As a bonus, you too can become a source of hope and motivation for someone else while simply living your life.

6. You Can Build Long Lasting Relationships

People contributing to a support group often end up becoming good friends and allies to each other. The relationship or friendship you develop through or within a support group often lasts long because you have some shared deep feelings. People in a support group have similar kinds of challenges, feelings, and outlooks. So, they can typically build strong bonds and give each other their safe space.

Tips on Leveraging the Full Benefit of a Support Group

By now it must have been clear that joining a support group is important if you are dealing with a tough situation or living with a disability. But, how would you find a support group and ensure that you are getting the maximum benefit? Let us discuss it briefly.

Step 1: Find the Right Support Group

The first step is undoubtedly the step of finding the right support group. Always use the right channel to find an appropriate support group. The right channel that can help you find a support group can include –

  • Your doctor, clinic, or hospital
  • NGOs working for the particular cause
  • Any government or private portal relating to specific reason like mental health etc.

The support group you find can be online as well as offline. Both have their own pros and cons. If you can manage, be a part of an offline support group where you can meet people and connect to them on a personal level.

Step 2: Get to Know the Support Group Well before Joining

You may find several support groups that seem good to you. It is always advisable to know the support group before you become a part of it. You can check for people’s reviews if that’s possible. And, you must ask a few questions to understand that a particular support group is best suited for your need. You can ask the following questions –

  • Is the group meant for a specific condition and a specific stage of the condition?
  • How often and where does the group meet?
  • Is the group moderated by a facilitator? If yes, are the facilitators trained?
  • Are there any guidelines about confidentiality and protection of privacy of the contributing members?
  • Is the group free to join? If not, what is the fee?

Step 3: Beware of the Red Flags

This step is in continuation of the second step. In the process of getting to know a support group, you must have an eye on the possible red flags. You can check for the following red flags and keep yourself away from any such support group.

  • The very high fee to attend the support group. The support groups are meant for holding hands and being there for each other and not to earn through exorbitant fees.
  • Promises of complete cure for a particular condition. Beware of any group that claims a complete cure for your disability or condition for which you know there’s no cure. Keep yourself safe from any false promises.
  • Pressure for purchasing any product or service. If a support group is pressurizing its members to buy a particular product or service, it is most likely in the wrong place.

Step 4: Get Properly Involved with Your Support Group

Once you have chosen your support group and become a member, you should try and reap maximum benefit. For getting the most out of a support group you need to be involved with the group and its members. Do not treat it like a gym membership you take only to waste the fee by not going there regularly.

  • Listen to the experiences of others carefully. This will provide you answers to many questions you might not have asked yet.
  • Share your personal experiences and thoughts on the particular situation. You may not feel comfortable at first but sharing your thoughts and experiences will help you reap more benefits.

Conclusion

Support groups are beneficial but you need to understand how you can best utilize them. If you feel that a support group is not benefiting you, try to get involved in a support group with a different format. A support group that is good for someone else may not serve your purpose. So, don’t bind yourself with a support group if you feel it isn’t benefiting you. You should also remember that a support group is meant to bridge the gap between medical treatment and emotional support. Do not treat it as an alternative to any prescribed therapy or medical treatment.

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