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Support Groups 101

The Various Types Of Support Groups

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There are two major types of support groups: informational and psychosocial. Information gruops only provide basic knowledge on a wide variety of issues. The concept of this kind of gorup is simply to inform.

The type of support group generally referred to when the subject is a life changing condition is a psychosocial group. These are supportive/expressive programs that focus on the emotoinal, psychological, and spiritual aspects of what members are going through. You'll learn from people who have been there before you, and you will help people with your contribution. The information shared is psychological, emotional, information about the disease, and practical information.

There are many varieties of psychosocial support groups. Support groups:

  • Meet in person, over the telephone, or online.
  • Are led by a professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. (Groups led by other lay people are known as "Self help" groups). 
  • May be education based or emotion based, or a combination of the two.
    • Education based groups focus primarily on teaching participants about their illness.
    • Emotion based groups focus primarily on helping people learn how to cope with feelings about their diagnosis.
  • May be for patients only, or may be for both patients and their loved ones.
  • Can vary in size, approach, and atmosphere.
  • May be free or there may be a charge. There is generally a charge for groups run by a psychiatrist or psychologist.
  • May continue to meet indefinitely or be closed ended, say for a period of 12 weeks.
  • May have outside speakers who talk about topics of interest to group members. Speakers usually permit a question and answer period.
  • May be closed to members only. Some groups allow visitors.

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