Support groups for the disabled provide individuals a place to talk about their experiences with others who have the same or similar conditions. Some support groups exist solely for individuals who have a particular condition, while others invite family, friends and caregivers to the same meetings. Finding a group where you can feel safe and supported with people you can trust can take a significant investment of time, but the relationships that are forged as a result are worth it.
Support Group Basics
There are different types of support groups for the disabled. Some groups are created to provide support for a specific disease or condition, while others invite any disabled community member to join. Another option is online support groups for those who live in rural areas or are unable to travel. Internet support groups may either have a chat format or a virtual format. Virtual support group meetings allow members to interact face to face over the Internet. All that is needed to join a virtual support group is a cable or satellite connection and a web camera.
Support groups generally have an open door policy for those who wish to join. Most people who join a support group hear about it through a physician, caregiver or an advocacy group. Groups may meet once a week, once a month or at any other time that works for the members and the person who is heading up the group. Regular attendance is not required to be in a support group. Some individuals find that they only need to attend meetings when they are experiencing a problem, while others may attend more frequently because they enjoy the company of the other members.
Where to Find a Support Group
Talk to your physician to find out where support groups are being held. Many support groups for various disabilities are held at local hospitals. Other places to look for support groups include organizations who advocate for a specific disability, local newspapers in announcement columns and bulletin boards found at churches, libraries or the post office.
Who Runs a Support Group
Support groups for the disabled are run by individuals who either have a specific disease or condition or have experience as a counselor who has worked these individuals. The person who heads up the support group helps to guide discussions and can offer advice and guidance if a member needs additional support services.
What to Expect
When you go to a support group you will be introduced by the person who runs the group to the other members. You will not be expected to bare your soul at the first meeting, nor at any subsequent meeting. It is okay to just sit and listen to others and share information or experiences only when you feel comfortable doing so.
Choosing to belong to a support group can help alleviate stress and give you a better sense of well-being. If you’ve been feeling like no one understands the emotional or physical pain that you may be going through, a support group can help. In addition, encouraging a spouse, friend or caregiver to attend the meetings with you may give them a better sense of what living with your particular disability is really like.