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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

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Value of Support Groups

A therapeutic and valuable resource for TBI patients is the opportunity to attend a support group. It is important to distinguish support groups from group therapy. Support groups generally address difficult symptoms and how to cope with them. Group therapy often aims to provide an opportunity for interpersonal learning and to work out early familial conflicts.

What Is a Support Group?

A support group is set up to help people cope with difficult situations. Its aim is to alleviate symptoms. It provides an opportunity to explore and discuss troubling events, thoughts and feelings in a group setting. It is often very helpful for participants to discover they are not the only person to ever think, feel or act a certain way.

Who Attends?

The scope of group therapies is mind-boggling. For nearly every medical and psychological condition there is a support group. There are support groups for AIDS patients, eating disorders, post partum depression groups, cancer, asthmatics, irritable bowl, panic disorder, and many more.

Therapeutic Factors

Here is a short list of what support groups provide. For extensive information on this topic read The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, by Irvin Yalom, professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine. Most psychology graduate students are trained on his seminal research.

Instillation of Hope – Group members are often inspired and their expectations raised by contact with those who are improving or have found effective ways to cope with symptoms.

Universality – Many people feel that they alone have frightening or unacceptable problems, thoughts or feelings. A support group can be a powerful source of relief through the discovery that others suffer similar problems, and that no human deed is outside someone else's experience.

Altruism – Group members often benefit by giving. In group settings, members offer support, reassurance, suggestions and insights. Almost all group members credit their fellow members as important to their improvement.

Didactic Instruction – Group members may receive information on current research or techniques associated with their specific problem or condition. Oftentimes members will learn the physiological effects of their condition, how it affects thoughts, mood and behavior. Illness-related medical information is often imparted.

This is an important part of the group process, as fear and anxiety stem from the uncertainty of the source and meaning of symptoms.

Direct Advice – Group members often benefit from another's direct suggestions and guidance. It's often the process of giving advice that's valuable, rather than the content of the advice itself. The gesture conveys mutual interest and caring.

Development of Socializing Techniques – Social learning, or the development of social skills, is always at work in a group setting. Members often learn how to be responsive, non-judgmental and appropriately empathetic.

How to find a Support group.

There are many types of support groups available in a variety of locations. There are support groups in both inpatient and outpatient facilities, as well as online. Below are a few links to help you find support groups related to TBI:

http://www.supportpath.com/ (an online support group connection)

www.headinjury.com/linktbisup.htm (links to support groups across the US)

http://groups.msn.com/TBISupportGroup (an online TBI support group)

http://www.biaf.org (Lists a toll free # for assistance finding support groups in FL)


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