Trying to find a support group for the first time can be daunting. If you’ve never been to a support group meeting, you might be asking yourself what it will be like and how comfortable you’ll feel. Whether you are looking for a support group for anxiety for yourself or for a support group for families of addicts, you may wonder where to begin.
Fortunately, taking the plunge and turning up is often the hardest part. With the help of this easy guide, you’ll be able to find the right support group and start the journey toward the lasting change you need in your life.
1. How to Find a Support Group in Your Area
The first step is to do some research into what kind of support group you are looking for. For substance abuse, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Al-Anon Family Groups are the first resources you should look into. Their websites have easy-to-use location tools that help you find local support groups.
These are the big three organizations that organize support groups for people suffering from alcohol addiction, dealing with addiction to narcotic substances, or who have family members with addiction. If you or your loved one are dealing with an addiction or mental health problem not related to alcohol or substance abuse, you’ll get a better result by searching for support groups specific to your situation. For example, there are support groups specifically for anxiety and depression, grief, eating disorders, and many other challenging situations.
Many support groups are aimed specifically at people who are struggling with a loved one’s health issue or addiction, and you should absolutely seek out a support group if you are in this situation.
Support groups are also often part of rehab programs. For example, Summit Detox offers 12-step meetings as part of its residential treatment program.
2. How to Contact a Support Group Near Me
Most support groups will have a local representative who can be contacted by phone and/or email. You can get in touch to ask them more questions about the support group meetings and express any concerns you may have.
Many national organizations now also offer apps you can download on your phone to help you find meetings and details of representatives you can contact. AA, notably, has the Meeting Guide app that can be downloaded on Apple or Android phones.
Once you have found a local meeting, you don’t have to write to explain your situation or book any appointments. You can just turn up to your first meeting if that’s what you’d rather do. However, bear in mind that if you are not the addict in the family, you won’t be able to attend closed AA meetings and should seek out support groups for families of addicts instead. Likewise, if you are trying to find a support group for a teenager, you’ll need to know whether they allow parents in. Many do not, or they may offer some meetings that include parents, while others are only for children and/or teenagers.
If you know that you or your loved one needs a residential program rather than only meetings, you can call Summit Detox for immediate help.
3. How to Decide If a Support Group Is Right for You
Now that you’ve found a support group and know where the meeting will be, you may (understandably) be full of doubt and wondering: What will the support group near me be like? What will happen in the meeting?
As a rule, a support group will offer you anonymity, a supportive and non-judgmental environment, and freedom from discrimination of any kind. You also don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. You can just sit and listen to other participants talk. Some people feel comfortable and want to share straight away, while others may find it takes a few meetings to feel comfortable enough to speak. For some, it may be easier to talk more informally to other members after the meeting is over.
Some support groups are restricted to only women or men. If you think a gender-specific meeting is right for you, seek out ones labeled “M” or “W.”
4. Do Support Groups Really Help?
Research has shown that consistent, long-term attendance of mental health support groups helps both people suffering from mental illness and their carers. Likewise, peer support groups for people suffering from addiction and support groups for families of addicts are effective. So, if you’re thinking, “Will this support group near me really be effective?”, the answer is a resounding “yes!”
However, the effectiveness of support groups is only experienced with consistent attendance over time. In some cases, a support group will be effective only in combination with other forms of addiction treatment, whether residential or outpatient.
One of the main benefits of combining a detox program like the one at Summit Detox with support group meetings is that it allows you to safely begin your journey toward better physical and mental health. Where substance abuse is involved, attempting to stop completely on your own can be ineffective and dangerous, leading to physical complications and relapse. Taking advantage of a detox program can help you get more out of your support group work in the longer term.
5. How Are Mental Health Support Groups Different From AA meetings?
Mental health support groups fall into two distinct categories: peer-led and therapist-led. Peer-led mental health support groups are quite similar to AA 12-step meetings — they offer a safe, non-judgmental space in which people with similar experiences can share, support, and learn from each other. However, these meetings, while very helpful to many people, aren’t strictly speaking therapy and don’t involve a medical professional.
A therapist-led mental health support group offers guided support from a licensed psychotherapist with a specialization in the specific mental health condition the group is for. Unlike peer-led support groups, therapy groups will often have a cost, which can be covered by health insurance. Some therapists will want to carry out an assessment prior to meetings to ensure the people attending are getting help for the right condition.
So, if you’re searching for a “support group near me,” it may make sense to search for more specific terms, such as “mental health support group” or “therapy group.”
Bear in mind that if you or a loved one suffers from persistent and major mental illness, such as mood disorders or bipolar disorder, a residential program is what you need rather than a therapy group. If you’re not sure whether you need residential treatment, get in touch for an assessment. It’s confidential and fast and will help you make the best choice for your health. Finding fast and effective treatment during a mental health crisis is essential for a full recovery.