Dear JF&CS Therapy Team,
I had been in individual therapy years ago and found it helpful though now I am feeling the need to find support in my community. Could you help me understand how groups work and what the benefits are for joining a support group?
Let’s first look at the difference between joining a therapy group vs. joining a support group. Typically group therapy is a formal type of mental health treatment that brings together several individuals with similar conditions under the guidance of a trained mental health provider. Additionally there may be a formal treatment model followed by the leader. Support groups are not the same as therapy groups. Support groups are not usually led by a trained professional leader but could be guided by one of the group members, or a lay leader who has the same problem or condition as all the other group members. In a support group, all members typically struggle with the same problem such as illness, relationship problems or significant life issues (i.e., AA for substance issues).
Support groups usually meet at a regular time and place each week or each month. Most groups have some form of structure that organizes the meeting while some are educational and could invite local experts in to share their expertise with the group members. Questions could be answered and information shared with everyone present at the meeting.
There are many benefits of joining a support group:
- Primarily they decrease the sense of isolation as you find out that there are other people who share how you feel and experience life
- Feeling less lonely
- Freedom to express negative feelings with people who understand you
- Talking honestly about feelings others can directly relate to
- Clarifying what to expect from your condition
- Learn from other group members how they are coping with a similar problem
- Comparing notes about specific areas that others don’t want to talk about publically
- Reducing depression, anxiety, and mental health stigmaAfter being part of a support group for some time you may notice an increase in your self-esteem especially when you notice an improvement in your coping skills and better ways to manage or control your emotional reactivity. Once you realize you are not alone, you may find relief from the support of other group members who have been where you are now. Sometimes we need to find a group of people who are familiar with our problems and share deeply with them instead of overburdening our loved ones. Group members offer one another emotional comfort and moral support that can help you through a difficult period in your life.
- For more information, call Jewish Family & Children’s Service (314) 993-1000 or firstname.lastname@example.org