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Why Start a Support Group?

Go Back to How to Start a Support Group Main Page

Former US Surgeon General Koop has noted that "My years as a medical practitioner, as well as my own first-hand experience, has taught me how important self-help groups are in assisting their members in dealing with problems, stress, hardship and pain... Today, the benefits of mutual aid experienced by millions of people who turn to others with a similar problem to attempt to deal with their isolation, powerlessness, alienation, and the awful feeling that nobody understands." - former Surgeon General Koop (in the book, Self-Help: Concepts and Applications, edited by A. Katz, et. al,Charles Press, 1992 from the self help group sourcebook online

The Value of Self-Help Support Groups

Gives examples of why support groups are valuable and useful.


Benefits of Attending a Support Group

From a Scottish government site. This discusses the concept of a family support group and examines why people become part of these groups. It also looks at the potential benefits of family support group membership and the difficulties that groups and individuals face, and provides some examples of family support groups and points the reader to further resources.

Here are some excerpts on the benefits of family support group memberships:

  • Members become part of a collective voice.
  • The group is non-judgemental. This creates a safe environment for members to disclose their problems.
  • Members become more informed
  • Reduces likelihood of member becoming dependent on the support from a one-one relationship.
  • Reduces stress experienced by the family member. The sharing of information and experience can reduce the anxiety of members and the isolation they feel.
  • Builds confidence for coping. Being able to discuss their circumstances enables members to look at how they cope, think about the advantages and disadvantages associated and adapt their coping strategies.
  • Empowers the family member. By acquiring new knowledge, skills and growth in self confidence gained from attending the group, the family member can increase their capacity to manage internal and external issues affecting their lives
  • Development of skills.
  • Improved communication with other family members


A review of research on the effectiveness of self-help mutual aid groups

By Elaina M. Kyrouz, Ph.D. and Keith Humphreys, Ph.D. Veterans Affairs Health Care System and Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California. Very comprehensive list by category (mental health, addiction-related recovery bereavement, cancer, and chronic illnesses, caregivers, diabetes, elderly,and weight loss) with brief summaries.

We focus here primarily on studies that compared self-help participants to non-participants, and/or gathered information on multiple occasions over time (that is, "longitudinal" studies)




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