We’ve all heard of someone attending a support group at some point, or we’ve read 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 participate in these groups. But … What is a support group? What are they used for exactly?
- Related article: “Types of psychological therapies”
The support group: are we facing what we are facing
It is understood by the support group to this set of people who meet regularly to help each other with a problem which causes alterations in their daily life through the exchange of experiences. This problem is common to all group members.
This is a strategy of cooperation and support between people live with the same problem, so that it helps each member to improve their competence to adapt to the problem in question or its consequences and to deal with possible future complications. In addition to this, it allows the expression of doubts, fears and emotions arising 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.
Interaction and cooperation are encouraged in support groups, In addition to improving the taking of responsibilities for themselves in each of the members. All the members of the group are equally important and have the same right to express themselves, there is no hierarchy between them. Groups are usually moderated by a professional, who leads the session and acts as a moderator and is dedicated to ensuring that all members can speak freely and fairly.
Support groups do not necessarily have to have a specific structure, although they are generally of two specific types. On the one hand, it can be closed groups, in which a certain number of subjects and once started new people cannot be admitted. This forces people to commit to going to a specific number of sessions. Another type of groups are open groups, in which participation is free and can attend or stop doing it who wants and when he wants, being able to incorporate new subjects into the group.
Typical functions and benefits of support groups
Support groups have a wide variety of possible applications and functions, including the following.
1. It allows to acquire information and new perspectives
Support groups share a wealth of information which is reflected by people with different ways of interpreting both experience and life in general. Likewise, the moderator or professional in charge of the group can suggest different topics or direct the discussion towards specific aspects that can help both to express themselves and to improve the situation of each topic.
In short, support groups they allow their components to acquire information that they did not have, In addition to observing and comparing the different ways of thinking and acting on a subject. It can even be used to incorporate new behaviors, coping strategies and activities into one’s own life that have been successful in others.
2. Encourages problem solving and the acquisition of strategies
Through support groups, those involved can learn new ways to cope with their difficulties, new coping strategies can be generated both by learning from others and by developing them together.
3. Normalize the situation and the resulting experiences
Living in certain situations can be a traumatic experience. On top of that, it is common for people to be confused about how to react or whether what they are going through as a result of the issue in question or what they have been going through at that time is normal. You may even think it is something wrong and blame yourself, for example, for not being able to trust certain people or even taking to the streets.
Meet other people with similar experiences this 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 that have been experienced and felt by others.
4. Emotional support: improves the feeling of being understood
Support group means being able to share aspects of one’s life that are not usually expressed in front of other subjects or that are not easily understood by someone who has not had the same experience even though someone is said he wanted to offer help. The individual might feel better understood in front of people with the same problem.
5. Encourages emotional expression
Having the presence of people in situations similar to one’s own makes the person more free and can let go and share emotions and thoughts, unlocking aspects that are hidden from others.
6. It makes it possible to establish bonds and to break the isolation
It is common for people who frequent these groups to find themselves isolated in their daily lives. Support from support groups enables people with a specific problem to meet other people with similar experiences and start to bond, Causing an opening towards the outside which in itself turns out to be therapeutic.
Situations and disorders in which they can be useful
Support groups can arise from many problems. These support groups may deal with aspects and events that are chronic, such as certain illnesses, or occasional such as a divorce or a transplant.
Support groups for people with illnesses
There are several support groups related to the existence of medical problems, whether occasional or chronic. Examples of these are support groups for cancer patients of different types, as well as for diabetics, asthmatics, HIV positive patients (HIV-AIDS).
For people with a history of addiction
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 that they are or have already gone through a period of abstinence.
For victims of traumatic events
There are dedicated support groups to bring together and try to help people who have gone through different traumatic events. Some examples are people who have been raped or sexually abused at some point in their life, kidnapped, victims of war, soldiers involved in war, people who have survived a disease like cancer or who have become widowed. .
For people at risk of social exclusion
Social exclusion is an element to be taken into account and that in many cases it causes great suffering to those who suffer from it. Among them are support groups for ex-prisoners, drug addicts, prostitutes, former homeless people affected by various diseases and socially rejected minorities.
There are support groups for relatives of people with some of the problems mentioned above. It should be remembered that the subjects’ environment also suffers a lot and needs psychological and social support, being very useful. meet other families who are going through the same thing. For example in families of people with dementia, disability, mental disorders or degenerative or chronic diseases.