Which Self Help Group is Right For You?
Are you going through a tough time in your life? Do you feel like you're all alone with your problem?
Chances are that there are a lot of other people who are facing a similar difficulty right now, perhaps even other people in your own community. You can find the help and support you need to get through this period, as well as find helpful advice and good friendships by joining a support group made up of other people who are struggling with the same problem that you are.
Whatever your current problem happens to be, whether you are struggling with an addiction, or perhaps someone you love is an addict, or if you are finding life hard because you have just been diagnosed with a serious illness, or if you don't have many friends to turn to because you are socially isolated, joining a support group is a way to quickly fill your life with kind and caring people who will help you on your journey.
What is a support group? It can be a formal or informal group of people who get together on a regular basis to share certain aspects of their lives with others and to offer each other emotional support.
Sometimes these are also called self help groups.
Perhaps the most famous of the support groups that exist today is Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.). This organization started in about 1935 in Akron, Ohio, when two alcoholics found that talking to each other about their drinking and following a simple program helped keep them both sober.
Since that beginning, the A.A. organization has spread throughout the world and millions of alcoholics have learned to stay sober by helping each other.
The A.A. model has been adopted by people dealing with addiction problems other than alcohol, so today there are support groups that deal with addictions to narcotics, cocaine, food, and many other substances and activities.
In addition, there are support groups that use the A.A. model to help the partners or children of addicts. Being the spouse or child of an alcoholic or addict brings with it certain painful problems that are often best understood by other people who have lived a similar experience.
Support groups that use the A.A. framework are often called '12 Step Groups'. That is because these groups base their founding principles and traditions on the 12 steps which were proposed by the initial founders of the first Alcoholics Anonymous groups.
One of the key principles of the support groups using the A.A. model is the tradition of secrecy. People who attend these meetings use only their first names. They do not publicly advertise their participation in 12 Step groups. Everything said at these meetings is meant to be kept strictly confidential by those who attend.
It is because of this tradition of secrecy that those who attend the meetings can feel free to discuss extremely personal matters.
Not only have 12 Step groups enabled millions of people to overcome their addictions, reclaim their lives and gain peace of mind, they also foster close friendships and emotional intimacy for many of those who attend.
Not all self help or support groups are fashioned on the 12 Step A.A. model. Many support groups today exist to help people battle specific diseases. For example, there are support groups for people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and many less common illnesses. Some support groups also raise money and awareness to combat specific diseases.
Support groups for people with diseases can provide a lifeline for people who are newly diagnosed with some frightening ailment. They can provide information, help, and hope, suggest new treatments and doctors, and give the kind of emotional support that can only come from other people who truly understand what it means to face this particular problem.
Self help groups also exist for many emotional problems and social situations.
There are support groups for single parents, for widowed seniors, for teenaged mothers, and for parents of twins and triplets. There is even a support group for people who have developed emotional problems after winning the lottery!
You can usually find information about the location and times of support group meetings by checking in a local newspaper or telephone book.
If you decide to try visiting an existing support group, it's best to go several times before you decide whether or not it's right for you. Sometimes a group can have an 'off' night when things don't quite work well, and yet other meetings might be much better.
Of course it is often easier to find a support group for an obscure problem if you live in a large city rather than in a small town. But you are not limited by geography as long as you have a computer - nowadays there are many support groups on line.
Using the Internet you can access people who are willing to talk about your problem, at any hour of the day or night, in any corner of the world.
Whatever type of problem you have, it's quite likely that somewhere in the world there is a group of people who are already trying to deal with the same problem.
And if you can't find the right kind of support group locally, another option for you is to try start up a support group right where you live. Not only will you be helping yourself, but you will also be helping others, and you'll probably meet a lot of interesting and friendly people at the same time!
About the author:
This article is by Royane Real, author of several self help books available at her website, including 'How You Can Have All the Friends You Want - Your Complete Guide to Finding Friends, Making Friends, and Keeping Friends'.