Support groups bring together people who are going through or have gone through similar experiences. A support group provides an opportunity for people to share personal experiences and feelings, coping strategies, or firsthand information about diseases or treatments.
For many people, a health-related support group may fill a gap between medical treatment and the need for emotional support. A person's relationship with a doctor or other medical personnel may not provide adequate emotional support, and a person's family and friends may not understand the impact of a disease or treatment. A support group among people with shared experiences may function as a bridge between medical and emotional needs.
The common experience among members of a support group often means they have similar feelings, worries, everyday problems, treatment decisions or treatment side effects. Participating in a group provides you with an opportunity to be with people who are likely to have a common purpose and likely to understand one another.
Benefits of participating in a support group may include:
When you join a new support group, you may be nervous about sharing personal issues with people you don't know. At first, you may benefit from simply listening. Over time, however, contributing your own ideas and experiences may help you get more out of a support group.
Try a support group for a few weeks. If it doesn't feel like a good fit for you, consider a different support group or a different support group format.
Remember that a support group isn't a substitute for regular medical care. Let your doctor know that you're participating in a support group. If you don't think a support group is appropriate for you, but you need help coping with your condition or situation, talk to your doctor about counseling or other types of therapy.