This study suggests that support groups can leave you more empowered… or not. Here are a few thoughts when it comes to choosing a support group.
Some people go to support groups seeking emotional support and a place where they can talk about their problems with others who understand. Others go mostly to find out what things may help them get well, by comparing notes with others. Different people have different needs, based on their personalities or the stage of the illness they are in. It is important to go to, or be involved in, the group that fits your needs best. It is not hard to tell though. After a meeting, see how you feel. If you feel better, it is a good group for you. If you feel like your energy has been sucked dry by vampires after a meeting, then you're in the wrong group ! ;-)
Picking a support group is not a "one size fits all" kind of thing. Having said this, as the medical establishment largely abandoned people with CFS and Fibromyalgia, people with these illnesses have had to take charge of making things happen so they could get well. And they have. This is one reason I have found it to be such a joy working with people with these syndromes.
Empowering Processes and Outcomes of Participation in Online Support Groups for Patients With Breast Cancer, Arthritis or Fibromyalgia
Ever since the rise of online support groups it has been presumed that there is an empowering effect from patients' participating in these groups, despite a lack of evidence to back up this assumption. In this study we explored if, and in which ways, patients feel empowered by participation. Additionally, we studied which empowering and disempowering processes occur as a result of taking part in these groups. To accomplish this aim, we interviewed 32 participants of online support groups. This analysis revealed the following empowering processes: exchanging information, encountering emotional support, finding recognition, sharing experiences, helping others and amusement. Disempowering processes were mentioned far less often. Empowering outcomes mentioned were being better informed; feeling confident in the relationship with their physician, their therapy and their social environment; improved acceptance of the disease; increased optimism and control; enhanced self-esteem and social well-being; and collective action. This article demonstrates that participation in online support groups can make a valuable contribution to the emergence of empowered patients.
Qualitative Health Research, Vol. 18, No. 3, 405-417 (2008) DOI: 10.1177/1049732307313429