Using Support Groups to Cope with Pain
Everyone copes with pain in their own way. Whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain, we all need our own method of dealing with the obstacles life throws at us. For many, support groups offer a tremendous method of coping with pain.
Support groups bring together groups of people who all face similar issues. Discussing and openly sharing problems with strangers might be uncomfortable at first, but simply being in a room with people who face similar issues can help us to open up, and on top of that, everything that takes place within a support group should be confidential. Coming together as a group allows individuals to share their own experiences, get advice, and offer advice of their own to other members. Just talking out our problems with people in similar situations can have a powerful healing effect.
While support groups might not be the best solution for everyone, many people find it helpful to look outside their immediate circle of friends and family for additional support. Even though our friends and family have good intentions, they’re not always able to fully understand what we’re going through. We each have our own unique problems – but it’s more than likely that someone else out there is facing a similar obstacle or is feeling similar pain. While support groups can’t and shouldn’t replace medical care, they can supplement care and can serve as a valuable resource.
The benefits of support groups are endless. One of the biggest benefits is that support groups help individuals understand that they are not alone. Members of support groups feel less lonely and less isolated, and they gain a sense of empowerment and control, improve coping skills, and reduce distress, depression and anxiety.
Support group members often get and give practical, realistic advice and information based on first-hand experience. Members also share notes and thoughts about resources, like doctors, medical treatments, and alternative options.
Support groups are usually free to attend, or they may have a nominal fee. Typically, support groups are sponsored by hospitals, religious institutions, or non-profit agencies. There are also online support groups and forums for people who live in remote areas, or individuals are who unable to attend in-person meetings for a variety of reasons. Forums and chat rooms allow participants to exchange stories and ask and answer questions. However, it is important to note that these online groups are not always monitored by professionals, so some of the information presented might be inaccurate.
To find a support group, start by asking your doctor, counselor or other healthcare professionals. Oftentimes doctors are able to refer patients to vetted support groups. Family and friends might also know of support groups in your area, or if you know anyone with a similar condition, they could be of assistance. You can also start online or at your local library by researching city, state and national groups for certain conditions. Many national foundations have “resource” centers on their website, where you can find more information and search for local groups.
Look for a support group that works for you, and always contact your doctor or healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns.