Bipolar Support Groups: What To Look For

Updated August 31, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you struggle with bipolar disorder, it's easy to feel very alone. While your family and friends may want to help you through your situation they might struggle to understand what it's like to walk in your shoes. This lack of understanding can make it difficult for them to be there for you the way you need them to be. This is why joining a bipolar support group can be so helpful.

Not Sure If Bipolar Support Groups Are For You?

What Is A Bipolar Support Group?

A bipolar support group is a group of individuals who are all diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Many bipolar support groups ofteninclude individual who are diagnosed with depression as well. In this type of group you can meet with other people who understand the challenges that you are experiencing simply because they, too, have afirst-hand experience with it. Unlike family and friends, they will understand what you are saying and will better be able to empathize with how you are feeling.

These types of groups generally have at least five people and no more than 15. While the location and times of meetings vary, the fact that you are meeting with people living with similar experiences as you remain the same.

How Bipolar Support Groups Work?

It is perfectly normal to have a lot of questions about how a support group works before joining one. The last thing that people want to walk into is a surprise situation where they are forced to share personal information with a group of strangers. However, goodsupport groups do not operate like that.

Most support groups allow people to share when they are comfortable instead of forcing them to share when it's "their turn." Most groups use the principle of self-disclosure. You can share your story and the pieces of it that you're comfortable sharing. That means that some people who are more comfortable can share deeper parts of their story while those that are less comfortable can share just a little. Hearing the story of other people can help you feel less isolated knowing that you are not alone in your struggles. And, when you share your story with others, it helps to do the same thing for them.

What You Should Know

There are many different types of support groups that you can join. It's nice to have multiple options because you can find one that fits your needs and preference. However, having so many choices can make it difficult to decide which type of group is right for you. Here are some things to consider and keep in mind when you are looking at joining a bipolar support group.

Is The Group Run By A Trained Professional?

Each support group is run a little differently. A licensed therapist runs some groups. The therapist oversees others, but they don't take an active role in the group. You want to make sure that you are joining a group that has a strong leadership. that there is someone whocan step in when needed.

Are There Limits In Place?

There will always be that one person in the group who would monopolize the entire meeting if they were allowed. The last thing that you want to do is join a support group where you never have an opportunity to share because the same person is monopolizing the conversation week after week. Before joining the group make sure you ask about itsrules. Find out how situations like this are handled. And, when you are participating in the group make sure that you are not the person who monopolizes the group either. When a group is running properly, all of its participants are likely to benefit from it.

Ask Your Therapist For A Recommendation

The most effective way to begin finding a bipolar support group is bytalking to a therapist, since not all groups are posted or known to the public. A therapist will know of the current groups that are meeting in your area that could fit what you are looking for.

If you struggle with bipolar disorder, it is very helpful to meet with a licensed therapist privately. During your sessions, you can talk about the options for meeting with the support group as well.

Not Sure If Bipolar Support Groups Are For You?

How Does The Group Operate?

It can be very helpful to talk to the leader of the group to find out what you can expect during meetings before you show up. There's a list of questions below to help you know what to ask during this conversation. You want to make sure that you are finding a group that you are comfortable with, and this means you should be comfortable with the leader of the group right from the start. But, it is a new situation and if you are feeling uncomfortable remember that you can attend these meetings without sharing your personal information. You can attend several meetings to get a feel for the group before fully committing to it.

Questions To Ask When Looking For A Group

  • Is the group open to new members?
  • How many people are allowed in the group? Is there a limit?
  • Where does the group meet?
  • What time does the group meet?
  • Are there requirements for attending the group?
  • How often are the meetings?
  • How long do the meetings last?
  • Do I need to bring anything to the meeting?
  • Is this bipolar support group part of a larger organization or program?
  • What happens during a typical meeting?
  • Is there a limit as to what topics can be discussed during meetings?
  • How is the group run? Is there a leader facilitating the discussion?

Don't Be Afraid To Try Multiple Groups

Don't feel like you need to commit to a group from the start. Trying multiple groups is okay. It's important that you find a group that you can connect with and feel comfortable sharing in to maximize its benefits for you. If you find that you have gone to one group and did not have a good experience, don't give up in looking for a support group. You don't have to go back to the first group that you didn't like, but make sure that you find another one to try.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Support Group

To get the most out of your support group, it's important that you engage in the group. Simply showing up to the meeting and sitting quietly is not going to benefit you as much. You will benefit the most from the group when you are comfortable enough to open up and share your own experiences. In so doing, you will open the door for others to share helpful information that you can use. You maybenefit from the group by helping others as well. This could be through sharing your own story or by offering support to others in the group. If they have a certain struggle that you have dealt with in the past, you can sympathize with them. You mayeven have advice that you can offer them. If nothing else, sometimes just knowing that someone else has been in that place can help.

Follow The Rules

When you attend a group meeting make sure that you understand what the rules are and that you follow them. Support groups have rules for a reason, and they have been put in place because they are necessary. Make sure that anything you hear within the group you are keeping completely confidential outside of the meeting. Do not share personal information or stories that others share within the meeting with anyone whois not a part of the group. You would not want them to shareyour stories and personal information with others outside of the group either.

Online Support Groups

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of meeting in person for a support group, there are online support groups that you can join. This is a nice option for you if you are unable to get yourself to a meeting physically. It's also a great option if there are no local groups that meet in your area. However, when being part of an online support group, it's important to remember not to read too much into the words that someone is communicating. If all communication is via writing, it can be very easy to misinterpret what someone is trying to say. You also want to make sure that you are joining a legitimate group that is run by a professional.

Remember that being part of a bipolar support group is not the same as getting one on one treatment for your condition. Even if you are part of a thriving support group where you have built a good community, it's also important that you continue with your regular medical care. Your support group and your therapist should work as a combination that helps you improve your mental health. If you need help finding a support group or a therapist, contact BetterHelp today to get started. Don't delay getting the help that you need.

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