Are Depression Support Groups Helpful?

Updated March 13, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Depression is characterized by recurrent and persistent symptoms that can interfere with the ability to accomplish daily tasks and complicates relationships. People with depressive disorder may hesitate to reach out for support because of the stigma associated with a mental illness. For those struggling with reaching out, support groups are a valuable resource where you can meet with others who are also experiencing depression. When you join one of these groups, you can learn how other people with a similar disorder cope with their symptoms, confer resources about depression while developing strategies that promote healing. In this article, you will what depression support groups are and how they may help people living with depressive disorder improve the quality of their mental health and general well-being. 

Unsure If A Depression Support Group Is Right For You?

How Depression Support Groups Work

Depressive disorder can cause a person to feel quite isolated, especially when they do not have energy to socialize and are experiencing feeling of sadness and hopelessness. However, in a depression support group, this isolation is resolved the moment you enter the support group as you recognize you are not alone. Rather, you are surrounded by people who understand your experience and can provide you support from this place of understanding. 

Support groups are usually led by a licensed therapist or counselor. However, some support groups may be led by a pastor, minister, or a trained moderator who also manages depression. These groups typically are only for people with depression and not for their family or loved ones. If your loved ones want to be a part of your mental health support group, there are support groups that include family or loved ones. However, support groups specifically geared towards supporting only people with depression help to build a circle of trust that allow people to open up and confer without judgement. 

What To Look For In A Depression Support Group

Depression support groups vary by location, and it is important to find one that suits your needs and preferences. Below, you will find characteristics to consider when  looking for a high-quality support group.

Led By A Mental Health Professional

When you begin looking for a support group, decide what kind of leader or moderator you want. Often, this will be a licensed professional. When someone with these qualifications leads a support group, you can be certain you will come away from the group with real solutions that you can put into practice. Other participants in the group may have coping mechanisms that seem to work for them, but their tips may not be healthy for you under certain circumstances. 

Having a professional who can weigh in and guide the conversation will help you get the most out of the experience. They will have the clinical knowledge needed to help you understand different aspects of managing depressive disorder along with extensive knowledge about treatment options and knowledgeable resources. 

On Track Discussions

A trained professional can also ensure the group stays on track. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to discuss how depression affects your relationship with your spouse. But it is not necessary to complain about the things your spouse does or does not do around the house. A professional moderator is trained to steer group discussions back to important and useful topics if distracted. This allows the group mindset to remain focused on conversations centered around problem-solving and strategizing instead of simply venting about unrelated issues.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is a central component of the safe environment that a group leader and participants create for each other. The privacy of information conferred in group sessions is vital to the therapeutic effects of opening to the group along with the necessity of following health privacy laws. If the professional leading the group wants to use information as part of a study or research, this should be made clear from the beginning. You should also have signed a release form. If you do not feel comfortable in participating in any form of study, decline from participation. Find a group that works for you simply by searching for "group therapy near me" to see the list of options that you have.

Finding The Right Depression Support Group

You may find that there are several options available to you when choosing a depression support group. If your therapist or psychiatrist recommended a specific group, you may be drawn to attending the one suggested. You can also do a basic internet search for "depression support groups near me" or speak with your local church community or community center, both of which often have support groups or resources available. If you are currently in therapy, your psychologist is an ideal resource who most likely will have a list of local support groups led by licensed professionals.

You can also find depression support groups through referrals from friends and family. But, you may not want to attend the same group that they attend to maintain your privacy and confidentiality. You can make this decision by thinking about how comfortable you are having familiar faces at your group sessions.

Consider Online Options

Internet support groups provide a safe space to confer stories and mutual support with peers living through a similar experience in the comfort of your own home. If you live in a rural area, finding a depression support group may be difficult. Even if there are a few options, you may have trouble finding a support group that meets at convenient times, or you may feel like you know too many people in the group.

There are different types of online support group, including live telehealth group therapy sessions and support forums that primarily use chat to communicate.  An internet support group works similarly to in-person support groups, including being let by a professional, trained moderator, or a person with a similar mental health diagnosis. Keep in mind that many depression support forums are not monitored by professionals, nor are professionals likely to contribute. These forums may simply be a group of people with depression who come together to talk and support each other.

Studies have found that internet support groups can be effective in relieving symptoms of depression. These studies also show that many people who opt for online depression support participate in these groups for up to five hours per week, which is much longer than they would participate in an in-person group.

Unsure If A Depression Support Group Is Right For You?

When looking for an online depression support group, you should look for the same elements that you would look for in an in-person group. Finally, make sure all participants are helping one another through supportive feedback and comments.

Try Multiple Groups

If you attend a group and is not the right fit, do not give up. Every group is different. When you first attend a group meeting, you may not like the group energy or feel comfortable with the leader. Perhaps you do not trust the participants. In any of these situations, you will most likely not receive the support you need. However, if you look elsewhere, you may find another group that will meet your needs. Consider attending a variety of groups until you find the one that works for you.

Participate When You Are Ready

Do not feel pressured to participate right away. When you are new, you might want to sit back and listen for a while to absorb the information that is being presented. Once you feel comfortable adding something to the conversation, feel free to speak. Many people attend several sessions of a support group before they actively participate.

Consider Online Therapy

Research shows that online therapy platforms can be a powerful treatment option for people living with depression. In a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the effects of online counseling on symptom of depression and anxiety were examined. Treatment was in the form of a 12-week online cognitive-behavioral therapy program with the goal of reducing symptoms within 9 months. Researchers found that the program successfully reduced depression symptoms in participants at a 9-month follow-up. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a widely accepted form of counseling that works by helping individuals better understand the negative thoughts underlying their symptoms.

Should your depression make it difficult to get out of the house or should you have a busy schedule, you may want to try online therapy. BetterHelp has counselors who are available to meet with you from the comfort and safe space of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection. A licensed counselor can help you determine if a support group is right for you as they guide you on the path to better mental health. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"I put off finding a therapist for a long time. I dreaded my first conversation with Neil and all the awkward, clunky explanations I'd have to give about my depression and anxiety. All of the things that felt like dirty little secrets that caused me so much pain. But I was so pleasantly surprised by the way Neil accurately picked up on what I was saying and gave me more insight into how my brain was working. It made my issue feel so much less of a personal problem and more of a universal problem we could examine together. He always gives me a thoughtful response within a day or two any time I send a message. I actually think we've made more progress in between sessions just by being able to communicate things that are coming up in real time. Neil is intelligent and kind. I really appreciate his communication style and highly recommend him."

"Tamera is straightforward and supportive. She's not afraid of pointing out what to work on and give you the right tools immediately. It is highly personalized just for your unique symptoms and situation! Tamera helped me manage my depression and anxiety and I became more empowered to have more control in my life. I feel a lot happier."

Takeaway

Depression support groups have helped many people learn to manage their symptoms and live a happier life. If you would like to give it a try, reach out to a licensed therapist to find a group that fits your life today. Remember that you are not alone. You can overcome any obstacle that depression sends your way. With the right tools, you can get back to a life you truly enjoy. Take the first step today.

Other Commonly Asked Questions

How do I find support groups in my area?

Does group therapy work for depression?

What do you get out of support groups?

Are there any organizations that deal with depression?

Is there a 12-step program for depression?

How do I find a support network?

What are the disadvantages of group therapy?

Can group therapy be harmful?

How long should group therapy last?

What are different types of support?

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

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