Support Groups: What Are They And What Are They Effective For?

We have all heard about someone who attends a support group, or we have read about it or seen it in a novel, series or movie.

A person with cancer, an alcoholic or a rape victim are some of the people who go to these types of groups. But… What is a support group? What exactly are they for?

The support group: what are we facing?

A support group is understood to be that set of people who meet regularly to help each other deal with a problem that causes alterations in their daily lives through the exchange of experiences. This problem is common to all members of the group.

Is about a strategy aimed at cooperation and support between people who live with the same problem, in a way that helps each member improve their competence when it comes to adapting to the problem in question or its consequences and facing possible future complications. In addition, it allows the expression of doubts, fears and emotions derived from their experience in a welcoming environment and where they will meet other subjects who have gone through the same thing and will understand each other.

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Interaction and cooperation are encouraged in support groups., as well as the assumption of responsibilities for themselves in each of the members. All members of the group have equal importance and the same right to express themselves, there being no hierarchy between them. The groups are usually mediated by a professional, who directs the session and acts as moderator and is dedicated to ensuring that all members can express themselves freely and equally.

Support groups do not have to have a specific structure, although they tend to be of two specific types. On the one hand, they can be closed groups, in which a certain number of subjects are enrolled and once started no new people can be admitted. This forces people to commit to attending a specific number of sessions. Another type of group is open, in which participation is free and whoever wants and whenever they want can attend or leave, and new subjects can join the group.

Typical Features and Benefits of Support Groups

Support groups have a wide variety of possible applications and functions, among which the following stand out.

1. It allows you to acquire information and new perspectives

In support groups, a large amount of information is shared that is reflected by people with different ways of interpreting both the experience and life in general. Likewise, the moderator or the professional in charge of the group can propose different topics or direct the discussion towards specific aspects that can help both express themselves and improve the situation of each subject.

In short, support groups allow its components to acquire information that they did not have available, as well as observing and contrasting the different ways of thinking and acting regarding a topic. It can even serve to incorporate new behaviors, coping strategies and activities into your own life that have been successful for other people.

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2. Promotes coping with the problem and the acquisition of strategies

Through support groups, people who participate in them can learn new ways to cope with their difficulties, new coping strategies can be generated both by learning them from others and by developing them together.

3. Normalize the situation and the experiences derived from it

Living through certain situations can be a traumatic experience. In addition, it is common for people not to know how to react or if what they experience as a result of the problem in question or what they experienced at the time is normal. You may even feel that it is something reprehensible and blame yourself for, for example, not being able to trust certain people or even go out on the street.

Meet other people with similar experiences It can be very reassuring, as it allows us to see that one’s own reactions are normal in certain situations and that the experiences and sensations one has have been lived and felt by others.

4. Emotional support: enhances the feeling of feeling understood

The support group means being able to share aspects of one’s own life that are not usually expressed to other subjects or are not easily understood by someone who has not gone through one’s own experience despite the fact that said someone intends to offer help. The individual will be able to feel understood more easily with people with the same problem.

5. Promotes emotional expression

Having the presence of people in situations similar to one’s own causes the person to feel freer and to let emotions and thoughts come out and share, unlocking aspects that are hidden from other people.

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6. It allows you to establish ties and break isolation

It is common for people who go to these groups to isolate themselves in their daily lives. Attending support groups allows people with a specific problem to meet others with similar experiences and begin to generate connectionscausing an opening towards the outside that in itself turns out to be therapeutic.

Situations and disorders in which they can be useful

Support groups can arise for a large number of problems. These support groups can deal with chronic aspects and events, such as some illnesses, or specific ones such as a divorce or a transplant.

Support groups for subjects with illnesses

There are various support groups related to the existence of problems of medical origin, whether specific or chronic. Examples of them are support groups for cancer patients of different types, as well as for diabetics, asthmatics, and HIV-positive patients (HIV-AIDS).

For people with previous addictions

One of the most well-known types of support groups. There are many support groups for people who have quit alcohol, cocaine, heroin or other substances and who are or have already gone through a period of abstinence.

For victims of traumatic events

There are support groups dedicated to bringing together and trying to help people who have suffered different traumatic events. People who have been raped or sexually abused at some point in their lives, kidnapped, victims of war, soldiers who have participated in war conflicts, people who have survived a disease such as cancer or who have become widowed are some of the examples. .

For people at risk of social exclusion

Social exclusion is an element to take into account and that in many cases causes deep suffering to the people who suffer from it. Among them you can find support groups for ex-convicts, drug addicts, prostitutes, formerly homeless people, those affected by different diseases and socially rejected minorities.

For family

There are support groups for family members of people with some of the problems mentioned above. We must not forget that the environment of the subjects also suffers greatly and requires psychological and social support, which is very useful. meet other families who are going through the same thing. For example in families of people with dementia, disabilities, mental disorders or degenerative or chronic diseases.