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Online Support Groups: ‘Help Me Heal Me’

Online Support Groups: ‘Help Me Heal Me’



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We all need support. When our lives are tethered online, is there a secure, trustworthy, and healthy way to get the best of both worlds?

The pandemic has changed plenty about how we care for our mental health — including in-person support groups. But just because support platforms might look different doesn’t mean you have to abandon your treatment altogether.

A credible online support group can help you continue to nurture your specific mental wellness needs.

No set professional criteria exist for online support groups. The upside is, you can find a support group in many forums across the internet, giving you the benefit of nearly limitless choices.

But perhaps you’re looking for the camaraderie of a group setting that also has the accreditation of a licensed professional guiding the meeting.

Resources like the American Group Psychotherapy Association can help connect you with a group therapist certified by the International Board of Certification of Group Psychotherapists.

Acknowledging the need for help and support can bring feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability. If taking the first step of attending an in-person support group is intimidating, an online support group may be a perfect fit.

You may prefer an online support group if any of the following apply to you:

  • You would like more anonymity than in-person meetings.
  • You’re looking for convenient support that fits a busy schedule.
  • You live with social anxiety or agoraphobia.
  • You are quarantining or following physical distancing guidelines.
  • You live in an area without the type of support resources you need.
  • Accessibility to physical locations is not possible.

Online support groups are geared toward connecting folks with others who can identify with a specific condition or life circumstance. Online support groups typically:

  • foster community
  • help build coping strategies
  • strive for personal resilience

On the other hand, group therapy is facilitated by a licensed professional. The camaraderie is still an important part of these groups, but therapy groups may focus more intently on treatment and behavioral changes outside the group.

Finding the right online support group or therapy group may not happen immediately, and that’s OK. To set yourself up for success, make sure to research before committing to a session.

If the group is peer-led, read reviews and recommendations from members. You’re trusting this group with your vulnerable experiences and feelings, so it’s important that you feel comfortable and confident in your online support group.

Since online support groups don’t have accreditation standards, you’ll need to trust your gut and listen to your instinct if you find the particular group you’ve chosen to be unhelpful.

Suggestions for vetting online therapy groups

“To find a group, first narrow down options to find groups that specialize in topics that you find interesting or beneficial for your specific issue,” suggests Amanda Levison, a licensed professional counselor from Neurofeedback and Counseling Center of Pennsylvania.

“Then, explore the approaches the groups will take to work toward their goals,” Levinson advises.

“Additionally, learn about the therapist who is guiding the group. If you’re unable to find information about their credentials online, you may choose to contact them or the company they work with so that you can make an informed choice.

“Finding a therapist or support group that works for you might be trial and error, but doing research and gathering information will help you make a selection that works for you,” she says.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a common mental health condition that deserves evidence-based treatment.

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America offers anonymous peer-to-peer online support groups to help strengthen the network of connections while on your anxiety treatment journey.

We’ve put together a list of top picks for anxiety support, too.

Bipolar disorder

If you’re living with bipolar disorder and feeling isolated, consider a peer-led group like the ones hosted at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

These support groups offer an outlet to share your feelings with others who have firsthand experience with bipolar disorder management.

Depression

It’s fairly common for depression to occur alongside another mental health condition, like anxiety or bipolar disorder.

If you prefer a group that focuses solely on depression and not on a coexisting condition, then LiveWell online support groups may provide your ideal outlet.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) also provides support education groups.

Eating disorders

People living with an eating disorder may feel a sense of secrecy around their relationship with food.

Virtual group therapy, like those provided at the Eating Disorder Foundation, can be especially helpful for people with an eating disorder to dispel negative thought patterns and reinforce a supportive association with food and body perceptions.

Personality disorders

If you have a personality disorder, you might have a difficult time coping with added adversity and adapting to stress. This is where an online support group may become especially helpful.

Listening and considering the coping mechanisms of others with a personality disorder in your trusted group can significantly improve your day-to-day life when put into practice. Consider the virtual groups at Emotions Matter for those managing borderline personality disorder, for example.

Substance use/dual diagnosis

Substance use disorder comes in many forms. Because of the stigma still attached to this condition, many people have a difficult time seeking help.

Resources like Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery invite people to gather in a welcoming, inclusive space to address the root cause of their substance use disorder.

Now that you’ve learned how online support groups work, what they can do for you, and where to find the one(s) for your mental health management, all that’s left is to start doing your research and dive in.

It may feel overwhelming at first, but remember that you can ask your doctor or therapist for support group recommendations that will align with their treatment management plan.

Just like the medication management side of your treatment, online support groups are beneficial long term, and can be revisited along the way.

Mental wellness is a whole picture, not just a single, monochromatic stroke. Finding your best combination therapy is fluid and customizable. You’re the artist, so enjoy the process and be open to adaptation.


What You Need to Know About Mental Health Support Groups

Sometimes a group of people can assemble and amazing things will happen. These people often share a common problem, and by listening and working together, they can help each other heal and grow. These are sometimes called support groups, or self-help groups.

When you face a problem in life, the first people to whom you turn are often friends and family members. But sometimes people in your life may struggle to relate, or they might be more focused on giving advice than hearing what you have to say. So often it can prove beneficial to sit and talk with other people who are dealing with the same kinds of issues. These issues might include addiction, medical problems, family problems, or other life situations. Together, group members support and strengthen each other as they learn to problem-solve and cope with life’s challenges.

How do support groups work, exactly? Many rely on the principal of self-disclosure, where participants share stories and information about their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. However, people are welcome to share as little or as much as they like. Self-disclosure can be powerful because it reminds people that they are not alone and that others have persevered and even flourished despite challenging times. People who suffer from a medical illness can also feel less isolated when they can relate to others in a similar situation.

Worried you may be suffering from a mental health disorder?

Take one of our 2-minute mental health quizzes to see if you could benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

Types of Support Groups

There are many different types of support groups. Some are independent, while others may be affiliated with a larger organization. Groups sometimes meet in people’s homes, but often they meet out in the community, at locations such as schools, places of worship, hospitals, community centers, or other non-profit organizations. Sometimes a group will have a professional leading the discussion and providing education for members, but most often support groups simply consist of people who are experiencing a similar dilemma. Often more experienced members of the groups welcome newer members by sharing information from their own lives, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t also continue to learn and grow.

Perhaps the most famous type of self-help or support group is the twelve-step model found in Alcoholics Anonymous. This model, often used for other kinds of dependence such as overeating or gambling, helps keep identities confidential outside of meetings but provides familiarity and support within the group. Other types of support groups might be more psychoeducational in nature, providing important information about dealing with an illness or challenge. If a person wishes to completely retain their anonymity or struggles to find a group in their region, they might try an online support group. Chat rooms, discussion boards, and other websites can connect people from around the globe and provide support 24 hours a day.

How Do I Start?

Consult with a professional

Your first instinct might be to conduct an online search, which might prove helpful. However, many groups in your community may not advertise online, so if you’re looking locally, you might want to consider talking to a doctor or mental health professional for options. They are bound to keep your information confidential, so you don’t have to worry about keeping issues private.

Try multiple groups

Many people acknowledge that it can take a while to find a doctor or a counselor they like. Similarly, you might not find the best support group right away. Each group is different and has different personalities. So don’t talk yourself out of a second try if the first group you visit isn’t quite right for you.

Don’t worry about your participation

No support group will ever force you to participate. Not everyone feels ready to share personal information with strangers right away, so it’s okay to just listen until you feel ready. Often listening to other people’s stories can provide comfort and provide needed information, and this can prepare you to begin to support others you may encounter in the future who struggling with similar challenges.

Respect confidentiality

It’s likely that you will hear interesting and powerful stories in a support group. But these stories should be kept in the group, and you should respect the privacy of others. While you’re welcome to share your own thoughts on the subject with friends and family, remember that a group works best when you respect other people’s stories and personal information.

No question is too silly

Don’t be afraid to ask simple questions in a support group. People get the most out of a group when they take the time to advocate for their needs. So if something sounds confusing, or if you feel like you have a different perspective, consider that you have something to offer the group. Be respectful in your response, and remember that you might be helping someone who hasn’t summoned the courage to ask that same question.

If you still feel too nervous to begin, you can always ask a friend or family member to accompany you to a local group. Showing up is a powerful step towards accepting the reality that you are not alone, and that help is available. By welcoming support and courage, you can model for others the reality that no one is truly alone, and that people can heal with the help of their community.


Online Support Groups: ‘Help Me Heal Me’ - Psychology

Emotional Emancipation Circles

“The Negro will only be free when he reaches down to the inner depths of his own being and signs with the pen and ink of assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation.”–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Emotional Emancipation Circles (EE Circles, EECs) are evidence-informed, psychologically sound, culturally grounded, and community-defined self-help support groups designed to help heal, and end, the trauma caused by the root cause of anti-Black racism: the centuries-old lie of White superiority and Black inferiority.

Originated by Community Healing Network, and developed in collaboration with The Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi), EECs are liberatory spaces in which Black people share stories deepen our understanding of the impact of historical forces on our sense of self-worth, our relationships, and our communities and learn essential emotional wellness skills to help us be at our best as individuals and as a people.

In early evaluations, EEC participants have reported significant improvements in their mental health, and transformations in their mindsets and lives. Here’s some of what participants have said:

“The EEC group gave me an opportunity to first talk openly with comfort and ease and authenticity about race. It allowed me to know that there’s nothing wrong with me.”

“It hit me like a brick. It was only at that point that I realized that I had never allowed myself to imagine…what the world would be like without the amount of racism that we have to deal with.”

“It was instrumental in informing the lens that I’m using to engage people of color in some very difficult conversations around the emotional trauma of racism.”

“Thank you, CHN. You have saved lives and improved …clinical outcome(s)…”

Together, CHN and ABPsi have trained more than 1000 EE Circle Facilitators and planted seeds for EE Circles in nearly 50 cities in the U.S., including Ferguson, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Los Angeles, Oakland, New Orleans and internationally in Cuba, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Haiti.

LEGAL NOTICE : Emotional Emancipation Circles EE Circles EECs A Journey of Discovery: On the Humanity of Black People Flourishing While Black Defy the Lie Embrace the Truth Flourish While Black Valuing Black Lives Breathe, Baby, Breathe Clearing the Way for Black Children to Flourish Community Healing Days Community Healer Awards Community Healing Institute, and any and all related Community Healing Network copyrights, logos, and service marks are owned exclusively—and stewarded by—Community Healing Network, and may not be used without CHN’s prior written permission. Local hosts, organizers, facilitators, trainers, and others in similar roles are wholly independent of CHN, and are not employees, agents, partners, or affiliates of Community Healing Network, Inc., or its primary collaborator, The Association of Black Psychologists.

Because of COVID-19, all EE Circle work will be done online until further notice.


How We Chose the Domestic Violence Support Groups

When reviewing online support groups, chat rooms, and forums, we reviewed the largest and most well-known online support groups in the United States. We looked at the services they provide as well the resources available to their participants.

Additionally, we reviewed their policies, guidelines, and security features looking for groups that were inclusive, safe, helpful, and respectful. During our review, we were unable to join and participate in the groups due to privacy concerns for current support group members. So, we relied on information from advocates who work regularly with survivors of domestic violence.

As you consider this list, please keep in mind that there are many local online support groups for domestic violence, which we did not review. So, if you don't find a group in this list that meets your needs, be sure to ask your local shelter or local domestic violence group for suggestions.

A Word From Verywell

If you're considering joining an online support group for domestic violence, be sure that you read through their guidelines and policies. You also want to be sure you are joining a group that feels secure both electronically and personally. If the group is public or doesn't commit to keeping your information private, it may not be the best group for you.

While online support groups help people process all types of abuse, including everything from emotional abuse and physical abuse to verbal abuse and financial abuse, these groups are not meant to replace the need for therapy or counseling from a qualified mental health professional.

Additionally, you may have to try a couple of online support groups before you find one that is right for you. As a result, even though we make recommendations for support groups, only you can decide which one is right for you. If you're having trouble finding a group that feels like a good fit, talk to your counselor or call your local shelter for suggestions.


4. Facebook

All right, Facebook groups can kind of be the Wild West, but there are a lot of potentially helpful options out there. Some therapists and mental health professionals have created support spaces there in recent months in response to mental health challenges related to COVID-19, the most recent instances of police brutality against Black people, and the current economic and political climate. Other organizations and groups already have established closed Facebook communities to foster mental health-related conversations. There are also independently run Facebook support groups for everything under the sun, and many people find them to be wonderful spaces of support.

Unfortunately, finding a solid Facebook group can rely on a lot of searching, trial and error, or word of mouth. Some helpful examples include this private support group moderated by BIPOC therapists for those affected by racial trauma, created by the online therapy company Talkspace. The Therapy for Black Girls podcast has a closed discussion group, Thrive Tribe, and while it’s not an official support group, many members use the space for therapeutic peer-to-peer discussions. Mobile therapy app ChatOwl curated this list of some of the most popular Facebook support groups for depression and anxiety.

If anything, these spaces can be solid starting points or places to seek out people who would be interested in creating a smaller support group.


Benefits of Online Psychologists

One of the most valuable benefits of online counseling is that your therapist is available from anywhere you can access the internet in the United States. If your job doesn't permit you to take an hour off for unspecified reasons whenever you want to, you can take advantage of shorter online counseling sessions during breaks or lunches. Being able to resolve painful relationship issues or to take part in cognitive therapy from anywhere you are in the United States offers a significant advantage over therapy in a traditional setting.

Even for people who have more control over their own schedule, the lower costs online therapy offers can be significant.

Finally, since the stigma attached to mental health issues remains to some extent, online therapy options allow people who would otherwise be hesitant to seek help from their smartphones or tablets. This is especially true for survivors of domestic violence or sexual abuse with limited therapy options. With many people suffering from mental afflictions in their lives at some point, it's difficult to understate this factor's effect.


Facebook Groups for Mental Health

Sometimes, the best thing for someone struggling with mental health issues is the ability to reach out to someone who will understand them.

Facebook is great for this, as people can start community-based groups focused around mental health issues.

That said, as is always the case with the internet, anybody can contribute to these groups, which has the potential to be harmful to members of that group.

For that reason, we have only highlighted closed groups (as opposed to open groups), which require admin approval to join. This way, it is more likely that someone will find a group full of people who only want to help.

Someone looking for a Facebook group to discuss mental health should try joining one of these:

Adult ADHD/ADD Support Group… By Reach2Change

This is a support group for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Anxiety/Depression Mental Health Support Group

This is a support group for people (18+) who struggle with depression or anxiety.

Bipolar Disorder

This is a support group for people with bipolar disorder, people who know someone with bipolar disorder, or people who want to learn more about bipolar disorder.

Mental Health Inspiration (Support & Awareness)

This is a support group for people with all sorts of mental health issues, as well as people who wish to be an ally or learn more about mental health.

PTSD Buddies

This is a support group for people (19+) with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Get To Know Some Of Our Counselors Below:

Specialties: Stress, Anxiety, Addictions, Relationship issues, Family conflicts, Parenting issues

Specialties: Stress, Anxiety, Addictions, Relationship issues, Depression

Specialties: Addictions, LGBT community, Grief, Anger management, Self-esteem, Career difficulties, Bipolar disorder, Coping with life changes

Specialties: Stress, Anxiety, Family conflicts, Parenting issues, Self-esteem

Specialties: LGBT community, Intimacy-related issues, Self-esteem, Depression

Specialties: Addictions, Family conflicts, Intimacy-related issues, Anger management, Career difficulties, Communication Problems, Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks, Post-traumatic Stress, Self-Love, Sexual Assault and Abuse.

Specialties: Stress, Anxiety, Family conflicts, Depression, Coping with life changes, ADHD


Health Benefits

So now that we understand that our social support systems involve both different types of social support as well as integration into different social groups, it is time to take a closer look at exactly how these social relationships influence both physical and mental health.

Healthy Choices and Behaviors

Participation in social groups has a normative influence on behaviors, often influencing whether people eat a healthy diet, exercise, smoke, drink, or use illegal substances.  

Clearly, social groups can sometimes have a negative influence in this regard when peer pressure and influence leads to poor or even dangerous health choices. However, group pressure and support can also lead people to engage in healthy behaviors as well.

If you have ever tried to give up a bad habit, such as smoking, you probably realize just how important social support can be. If your social connections do not support you, it can make success much more difficult. If your friends and family offer support and encouragement, you may find achieving your goal much more possible.

Coping With Stress

Social support also helps people to cope with stress. Stress has been shown to have serious health consequences ranging from reduced immunity to increased risk of heart disease.

Being surrounded by people who are caring and supportive helps people to see themselves as better capable of dealing with the stresses that life brings.

Research has also shown that having strong social support in times of crisis can help reduce the consequences of trauma-induced disorders including PTSD.  

Improves Motivation

Social relationships can also help people to stay motivated when trying to achieve their goals. People who are trying to lose weight or quit smoking, for example, often find that it helps to connect with people who are actively trying to attain those same goals.

Talking to people who are going through the same experience can often be a source of support, empathy, and motivation.


How We Chose the Best Depression Support Groups

Support groups were chosen based on the reputation of the hosting organization, accessibility, specificity to depression, and breadth of resources. When choosing a support group, it's important to consider your own specific circumstances and needs.  

For those who are looking for a more personal approach, we chose one-on-one support groups like Big White Wall and 7 Cups of Tea. We also handpicked the Anxiety and Depression Association of America as a general resource/directory where users could find in-person or online support groups specific to their needs.


Watch the video: Auditory Hallucination - Jang Jae In feat. NaShow - Kill Me, Heal Me OST - 1Hour (August 2022).