We all need someone to lean on from time to time. When you face difficult challenges in life, like a family member’s illness or your own addiction, it can be difficult for the people around you to understand what you’re going through. They don’t mean to be unkind, but they can’t relate. Sometimes they say things that are inconsiderate or offensive without meaning to. Sound familiar?
Joining a support group puts you in a circle of people who understand. The benefits of a support group can be life-changing. Everyone there can empathize. It can really help you feel less alone in hard times.
While support groups are abundant for everything from chronic pain to cancer, there are three things people may not know when they join a support group.
1) Support Groups are Usually Small
It’s uncommon to find more than ten people in a support group. Group facilitators intentionally monitor the number of people within the group so that the members can form trust and better support each other. It’s important for members of a support group to feel heard, not lost in a crowd. Talking in a group can bring up some really raw feelings. You have to be comfortable with the people around you to let go. The right support group is small and comprised of people who’ve formed genuine connections. It’s a safe space for everyone involved.
2) They’re Pretty Informal
Except in some mental health support groups (such as NAMI groups), most support groups are led informally by a person with the same experiences as you. They usually founded the group and sought out people who could relate. They may act as a moderator and facilitate discussions during meetings. Some groups are even more informal and have no leaders. Members may take turns talking about recent events in their lives, sharing their emotions, and encouraging one another.
3) Everyone is Nervous the First Time
No one feels confident the first time they go into a support group. Being the center of attention and talking in front of a bunch of strangers–about the really hard stuff–isn’t easy the first time. Many people go and listen initially. No one’s going to force you to speak against your will. They want to include you, not scare you off.
There are so many benefits to finding people who can relate to you when you’re facing big changes or difficulties in life. Don’t be afraid of the unknown when it comes to support groups. People want to share and help with people who get it. You may be surprised to find that you have something to share too.