Can Support Groups Help? The Pros And Cons Of Support Groups
“Raising a child takes a village” – have you heard of this phrase? I have always believed that this phrase is as apt as it can get, but then I also realized another truth some years ago. If raising a child takes a village, then caring for and healing oneself back to health takes a village too. After all, just like a child, you’re nurturing yourself back to health, so why not?
In this instance, I’m talking about support groups and the impact social support can have on our healing. In my experience, there are support groups that encourage you to get better, that support your recovery, but I’ve also been part of support groups that seem to do the opposite.
Support groups are a great way to seek help in healing. They allow your healing to be as natural as possible, but then there are times when support groups – or rather people or facilitators – of those groups can hinder your recovery and set you back.
In this article, I’ve listed the benefits and disadvantages of support groups with some tips that can help you ensure healthy social support and how to get it.
The Pros And Cons Of Support Groups
Benefits Of Support Groups
1. You Don’t Heal Alone
One of the benefits of support groups is that you find yourself in a community where you are not alone in your recovery. Because of the stigma around mental health, many people are uncomfortable opening up about their issues. This can make your problems seem bigger than they are, making you think that you’re alone in your suffering.
Being in a support group can help you find a place where you’re comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings without feeling alone.
2. You Get A Supportive And Safe Space
Another benefit of a support group that I’ve realized is the supportive and safe space they offer. Oftentimes, we feel that we’re not safe in expressing our feelings and thoughts. We feel like if we open up then we’ll be judged. Support groups offer a non-judgmental and safe space where you can openly express your thoughts and doubts.
A properly facilitated support group can be safe where you can air your fears, doubts, worries, and frustrations without fearing unsolicited advice. You are also surrounded by people who are less likely to take advantage of your vulnerability.
3. You Can Help Others Too
Healing can’t be done alone and rather than only getting help, support groups provide you a chance to help others too. And isn’t that the greatest gift you can give on your healing journey? While not everyone’s problems will be the same, they might be similar and can get the help they need from your experiences.
Not only can you learn from their experiences, but you can also impart lessons you learned to them and help them on their journey.
4.You Improve Your Social Skills
When you join a support group, you meet new people and when you meet others with similar experiences, you connect with them on a deeper level. This opportunity allows you to improve your social health and social skills too, especially if you’re used to staying isolated and alone.
In a support group, you can learn to be less withdrawn and find a place where you can open up to others once you get to know them on a personal level.
5. You Can Easily Afford The Help
Another advantage of a support group is that you can easily afford it without breaking the bank. You can find a support group online or offline. There are many support groups that you can join for free. They are at least cheaper than individual therapy or group therapy.
If you’re not sure about joining a support group, you can try a free one online or check in with your community groups to see if there’s a free support group you can join. Attend the first few meetings and only when you feel comfortable, try to share your experiences with others.
Disadvantages Of A Support Group
1. Others’ Problems Could Trigger Yours
Positivity attracts positivity and negativity attracts negativity. So imagine what will happen if you put a group of people who are struggling with negative emotions into a room? It’s likely to fuel or trigger your problems and emotions into action and instead of healing from them, you might find yourself drowning in negativity.
Here’s an example, in “Alcoholics Anonymous Support Groups” if someone has nothing good to share, it can cause another person to relapse. Same with mental health support groups. Some topics can be triggering for some people and if not handled with care can do more harm than good.
2. Vulnerability Can Be Misused
Sometimes when you join a support group, there are people there who can use your vulnerability against you. They would pretend to care first and then use your vulnerability to form a connection with you that might go beyond support. While it’s not a bad thing, it can hinder your healing nonetheless.
If anyone from a support group approaches you intending to date you, then immediately distance yourself. Dating support members is against the rules of any quality support group.
3. Support Shouldn’t Be Connected With Religion
Many support groups operate on spiritual beliefs but connecting spirituality with religion might be a bad step. If there’s a support group that preaches anything related to religion – yours or others’ – then it’s not a quality support group. A good support group allows healing in its own way but connecting support with religion is not appreciated.
If you are a religious person then you can find support in Christian support groups or Islamic support groups, or any other religious support group if you wish it. Even if you are in a support group where your religion is not practiced then it doesn’t mean that you’re not safe.
If anyone makes you feel unsafe about your religion, then it’s not a quality support group.
4. Online Support Groups Are Not Always Safe
It’s a topic of debate whether online support groups are safe. Honestly, they could be hit-and-miss. Online communities are made up of largely anonymous people. You never know to whom you’re talking and whether they are a safe person. With the right moderator, an online community can act as good support.
However, the moderators need to be respectful and have good judgment. They should be able to enforce rules and be able to act on them. But they also should not force those rules. In an online support group, there’s always a chance of losing the core identity of the group with time.
Tips To Help You Find The Right Support Group
1. Try to understand the support group guidelines and see if they are enforced properly. Are facilitators and moderators advising people to talk about subjects that are safe and steer clear of conversations that might trigger others?
2. Understand that there could be times when your environment doesn’t feel stabilized. In those situations, you need to see if you’re still receiving support from the group. Remember, it’s OK to step out for a moment to recollect yourself and even leave the group if you begin to feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
3. Avoid dating group members. If you connect with others and form a connection with them, try to keep the relationship to just friends (or at least until you’re out of your vulnerable state). Also, remember that relapse is OK and healing is a journey that’s best done at your pace.
4. You can also try to just observe the group before joining in. Make sure you understand how the group works and how it encourages all its members to share and heal. You need to find a group with proper moderation and a community that encourages sharing experiences but also shut down any conversations that are disrespectful or triggering to other members.
Support groups can be a great way to begin your healing and recovery, but they might not be for everyone. If you decide to join a support group, then keep your mind open and observe how they work before making a decision. If you find that a support group is not for you, then you can connect with a professional therapist to facilitate your healing.
But, if you find yourself benefitting from a support group, then carry it on. Make sure you understand the support group guidelines well and respect everyone’s space and experience, just like others respect yours.
Remember, you are not obligated to stay in the support group if you find yourself getting uncomfortable.
I hope this article helps you understand the pros and cons of support groups and how to make the best of them. For more, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on social media. You can also share your thoughts in the comments below.
Take Care and Stay Safe!