- Realize you may feel nervous the first few times you attend the support group. It is natural to feel that way. You are trying something new and meeting new people.
- If you can talk to the support group facilitator before going to the support group meeting -- by all means do it! Express any concerns and questions how the support group functions and how you feel about attending. Getting information will help to know in advance what to expect. The facilitator wants you to have a useful experience and can work towards making you more comfortable at the first meeting.
- If you can, go to the support group at least three time to get a clear, consistent picture of how it may or may not be a "fit" for you. Support group dynamics change slightly by group member participation and by the group's discussion that day.
- If you decide to be a participant in a support group, do try to attend on a regular basis. The benefit? Participants state feeling a marked improvement in their daily stress. Also, you may find commonality, support, new ideas to use, and friendship by getting to know other participants.
- Understand, even after attending the support group over some time, that you may have many mixed emotions when you attend. Sometimes a discussion starts making uncomfortable feelings pop up even when you feel attending the support group is helpful to you. This is normal and can mean you are emotionally working on some areas that are a concern for you. You should feel free to talk to the facilitator or group about this topic at any time.
- Know that a support group is a way to provide a little extra boost of caring and sharing! It is there to help reduce stress and offer support to people who feel they are in similar situations. It does not, though, replace the need for personal counseling or other means of self-care. Participants must be kind to themselves and fair to the support group by following through with their own individual self-care. You should feel free to talk to the facilitator about any concerns you may have on this topic.
- Lastly, not all support groups are for everyone. Try a couple of groups to find your "fit". Expect you may have to shop around. Some individuals find participating in two support groups gives variety and helps meet their personal specific needs better (ie., attending a general caregiver support group and a disease specific support group).
Attending and participating in a support group can offer many challenges as well as benefits. Our top tips can be used as a guide in helping you get the most out of attending one or many support groups.