There are several options for treating mental illness through medication, individual therapy, or a combination of both, but even the most comprehensive treatment plans are still limited in the benefits they can provide. That’s why many healthcare providers recommend joining mental health support groups to supplement traditional treatment.
Before we talk about the benefits, it’s important to distinguish support groups from group therapy. Group therapy is led by trained healthcare professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or counselors) and relies on evidence-based engagement methods and exercises. Support groups, on the other hand, are less structured and typically led by a member of the group who has some basic training in facilitating group discussions.
If you or someone you love is in treatment for mental health issues, here are some of the many ways a mental health support group can help:
Support Groups Alleviate Isolation
It’s very common for people suffering from mental illness to feel isolated from others. Family and friends can offer some measure of support and comfort but they can’t fully relate, which means patients are often reluctant to discuss their condition or associated concerns. Connecting with others, hearing their stories, and sharing similar experiences can be extremely helpful in breaking through feelings of isolation.
Support Groups Are A Safe Place To Share
Support groups of all kinds share a similar mantra: What’s said in the group stays in the group. This can be invaluable to those who are hesitant to speak freely—especially about negative feelings—because they’re worried about judgement, gossip, or discrimination. Within the safety of support groups, participants can share their frustrations about doctors, medication side effects, family and friends, and the personal difficulties they face dealing with mental health issues every day.
Support Groups Offer Unique Insights
While mental healthcare providers can offer advice on treatment options, coping strategies, and what to expect with certain medications, their input is limited by their own experience and the confidentiality of their other patients. Support groups, meanwhile, offer a wealth of diverse information, insights and practical advice. Group members often share coping strategies based on firsthand experience and offer realistic feedback unburdened by professional decorum. Support groups also provide an outlet to compare notes about resources, doctors, alternative therapies, and what participants can expect during traditional treatment.
Support Groups Provide Outside Resources
In addition to experience-based insights, support groups can also connect participants with educational, vocational, and housing opportunities if needed. And for those having difficulty navigating the social security disability system, fellow support group participants can direct them to the proper resources—and help them steer clear of problematic organizations and potential scams.
Support Groups Benefit Support Systems
Many mental health support groups offer corresponding groups for family and friends to have their own place to share concerns and frustrations. These offshoot groups also help family and friends to learn more about mental illness and treatment, as well as how to confront the stigma surrounding mental illness, thus allowing them to be more involved in their loved one’s treatment plan.
Ready To Get The Treatment You Need?
Mental health support groups are a wonderful complement to professional mental health treatments, but they are not intended to be a substitute. If you or someone you love could benefit from a comprehensive treatment plan for their mental illness, Alvarado Parkway Institute can help. We are one of the top healthcare providers for mental and behavioral health in San Diego, and we have a premier addiction treatment center as well. Call us today to start your journey to your healthiest and most vibrant life possible, or fill out our online form and we'll contact you. For immediate assistance, call our 24-hour crisis line at (619) 667-6125.