Depression Support Groups: A Valuable Resource
Updated November 22, 2018
Reviewer Laura Angers
There are many resources for people suffering from depression. One of the resources you may not be familiar with is depression support groups. Depression support groups are a unique setting in which you can meet with others who are also suffering from depression. You can get insights as to what others do to cope with their symptoms and make sure that depression does not run their lives. Most importantly, you can know that you are not alone in your diagnosis of depression.
There are many things to consider before getting involved in a depression support group. Not all groups are created equal, and you might have to visit several different groups before you find the right fit. Some locales do not have depression support groups available, but there are also online support forum options.
How Depression Support Groups Work
A depression support group is usually led by a therapist or counselor, although some support groups you find may be led by a pastor or minister, or by survivors of depression. The group is a place where you can talk about the challenges you face due to depression. Each person in the group contributes by sharing similar or different challenges, and those who have suffered those challenges provide helpful tips as to how they met those challenges in their own lives.
Depression support groups are a good place to get real coping tips from people who have used them. You can learn what works for some people and what doesn't work, and you can decide from there what to try in your own life. While discussing problems is an important part of depression support groups, it should not be a place to vent or complain unproductively.
What To Look For In A Depression Support Group
There are a lot of depression support groups out there, and not all of them are overly helpful. You will want to make sure that the support group that you participate in will be able to help you cope with your depression and relieve some of your symptoms. A support group should not be something that you do indefinitely. It should be something to help in the short term.
Not all depression support groups are led by a professional. It is important that you choose a support group in which a therapist or counselor is present. While the group may be primarily led by the participants, including those who have survived or overcome depression, it is important that there be a licensed professional present.
By having a licensed professional present in the support group, you can be certain that 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 are not necessarily healthy. Having a professional to weigh in on the skills and techniques that you and other participants use can help you get a lot more benefit from the group.
Complaining Free Zone
The leader of the support group should be in control of the group at all times. While it is important to be able to discuss the problems that arise from depression, this should not be a place to vent and complain. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to discuss how depression affects your relationship with your husband, but it is not acceptable to complain about the things your husband does or doesn't do around the house to help you. Maintaining a complaining free zone helps the group stay focused on presenting problems and finding solutions rather than simply airing problems and complaints.
It is important that confidentiality is maintained in a depression support group. You should make sure that you do not share the details of what any one person says within the group. Likewise, your information and the things you say within the group should also be protected. If the professional that leads the group wants to use information as part of a study or research, they should make this clear and have you sign a release at the start of the group.
Confidentiality is extremely important in these groups. To get the most out of the group, all participants must have trust in each other and the leader of the group. This trust allows everyone to be open and honest, and find real solutions. Without this trust, the group will not be nearly as effective.
Empowerment And Accountability
The best depression support groups are not just a place to come together and talk about depression. They should be a place to find solutions with other people who are part of the group. As such, it is important that the leader of the group empowers you and the other participants to make real changes in your lives.
This can be viewed similarly to an assignment given by your therapist. You may be asked to try a certain coping skill that was brought up during the meeting. There should also be accountability. When the group meets again, you and the other participants will be expected to talk about how you applied the last session to your life and how it worked or didn't work for you.
What To Expect From Depression Support Group
It is important to remember that depression support groups are not a replacement for therapy and other treatments. Instead, they are an additional resource that can be very valuable. Studies have shown that being part of a depression support group can greatly reduce symptoms of depression and increase coping skills.
A depression support group is going to help you connect with other people who have depression, helping you to feel less alone in your diagnosis. It's going to give you ideas for coping skills and coping mechanisms that may allow you to reduce your symptoms of depression over time. Sometimes ideas come from the most unlikely places, and you may get ideas for how to reduce your symptoms or the impact of depression on your life from the support group that your therapist never mentioned.
Do not expect that you will overcome your depression simply by attending a support group. These groups are a good resource in addition to therapy and medication treatments. Also, like therapy, they are not meant to be a long-term or constant thing in your life. Support groups usually run in 12-week sessions because this is the longest you should need such a group.
Finding Depression Support Groups
Finding depression support groups in your area can be fairly easy, especially if you are already seeking treatment with a therapist or psychiatrist. You can do a basic internet search for depression support groups near me, but many support groups are not advertised online. The best way to find a good support group is to talk to your current therapist or psychiatrist about support groups in the area. They should have a list of support groups that are near you, and licensed professionals will likely lead these.
You can also find depression support groups through the referral of friends and family, but you may not want to attend the same group that your friends and family go to maintain your privacy and confidentiality.
Internet Depression Support Forums
Not everyone has depression support groups available in their area. Especially if you live in a rural area, finding a depression support group may prove difficult. Also, you may have trouble finding a support group that meets at times that are convenient for you, working with your work schedule and family responsibilities.
When you can't find a depression support group in person to meet your needs, there are online options available. Internet support groups are abundant. There are also online depression support forums. There is a difference between the two. An internet support group works kind of like a chat room but is otherwise like an in-person support group, monitored or led by a professional. However, many depression support forums are not monitored or contributed to by professionals and maybe a group of people with depression coming together for talk and support.
Studies have found that internet support groups can be effective in relieving symptoms of depression. These studies found that many people who opt for online depression support participate in the group up to five hours per week, which is much more than you would participate in an in-person group. The studies also found that most people who participate in internet support groups are more isolated, and attend the groups for longer periods of time than in-person support groups.
When looking for an online depression support group, you should look for the same elements that you would look for in a group you would attend in person. Make sure that it is the therapist or counselor led, and that a professional weighs in on the conversation. Make sure that the site is secure and that your privacy is protected. And make sure that all participants are helping one another rather than just venting or complaining.
Getting The Most Out Of Depression Support Groups
Getting the most out of depression support groups depends on the group and you. There are several things to keep in mind to make sure that you get the most out of the group. When you follow these guidelines, you will be able to get help and support for dealing with depression.
Try Multiple Groups
If you attend a group and it doesn't seem like the right fit, don't automatically give up. Not all groups are the same. If you walk into a group and you don't like the vibe you are getting, you don't like the leader, or you don't trust the participants, you will get little out of the group. However, you may be able to find a group that does meet your needs. Attend different groups until you find the one that will help you the most.
Participate When Ready
Don't feel pressured to participate right away. You might want to sit back and listen for a while and soak up the information that is being presented by the leader of the group or the other participants. When you feel that you have something to add to the conversation, speak up. Many people go to several sessions of a support group before they actively participate.
Make sure that you respect the confidentiality of everyone in the group. It is important that there is an element of trust between all the of the participants and the leader of the group. Without this trust, you and others cannot be completely open and honest with one another, and the group will not help anyone. It is important that you do your part to foster this trust.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. There are no silly questions. If someone says something about a coping skill that you don't understand, or if someone mentions a symptom that you are not familiar with or are not sure that it applies to you, these are excellent times to ask questions. You should ask as many questions as you feel necessary, and you should never feel stupid or silly for asking a question. This is how people learn and get the most out of the group.
It is important to remember that depression support groups are not the only treatment option you should be searching for. If you are suffering from depression, you should contact a therapist for assistance. A therapist can properly diagnose your condition and help you learn coping skills that will relieve symptoms. They can also refer you to depression support groups online or in your area.