A support group is a gathering of people who provide practical support, encouragement and companionship. They are run by and for group members with the goal of empowering patients to be more involved in their medical care, work better with their clinicians and to develop effective coping skill and nurture new friendships. Most importantly, they believe that change is possible and that through helping each other, they also help themselves. There are three types of groups.
Types of Groups
(1) ON-LINE SUPPORT
– You can run a support group on-line, perhaps through a blog or Facebook. This is a wonderful way of reaching patients who are homebound, in rural areas or who don’t have access to traditional groups. The ICN was the first on-line support group ever begun! We created the model for on-line support.
– Reaches a lot of patients, particularly those who are homebound.
– No travel required
– Discussion boards are available 24/7
– Members must have the internet to participate.
– Group leaders must create rules and lead discussions strongly.
– Facebook groups, in particular, are notorious for conflict and fights among members
– Many group leaders lack essential knowledge about IC and have historically given poor information to their members
– Group leaders must be technologically saavy.
(2) TRADITIONAL SUPPORT
– Traditional groups meet in person, often monthly or quarterly, at a neutral location or local medical facility. These groups have a strong moderator who sets the agenda and leads the meeting.
– Members often develop good friendships and relationships.
– Members treat each other with respect and rarely have disagreements
– Leaders and members have the opportunity to meet, in person, various guest speakers and members.
– Laughter, hugs and good cheer are free for all.
– Family members can participate and see that they are not alone.
– Finding a location to meet can be challenging/
– Group leader must prepare for the meeting, including photocopying handouts
– Group leader must find and/or schedule occasional guest speakers
– Group leader must set up the room and/or break it down
(3) PHONE SUPPORT
– Ideal for patients who need to hear a supportive voice
– No travel required
– Leader may be called at odd hours and/or in the middle of the night
– Leader may encounter patients in crisis and, potentially, suicidal
– Some leaders use phone calls to discuss their own IC rather than listening to others. Self-discipline is essential.