A photo of a tree being held up by aa hand made of wood as a symbol of support for anxiety and depression

If you have anxiety or depression, you may wonder if a support group would be helpful to you. First step? Consider the pros and cons of participating in anxiety and depression support groups.

Being part of a support group provides an opportunity to be with people with similar concerns.

To be in the presence of others who talk about their challenges can feel like a breath of fresh air. Especially because mental health challenges can be isolating.

In a support group, you’re likely to understand one another. And also recognize that not everyone is exactly the same. The main focus is on sharing experiences without focusing on the negative feelings of depression or anxiety.

Problem solving, sharing, and empowering each another can feel incredibly supportive. And really help to improve your symptoms of anxiety and depression.

In a group environment, members generate ideas for themselves and each other. The group setting is a safe place to practice skills that you can then more confidently practice in your every day life.

Many benefits of participating in a support group for anxiety or depression make it an appealing option. And well worth the effort.

For example, being in a support group may help you feel less isolated in your depression and anxiety. Recognizing that other people feel similarly to you can be such a relief. That you really are not alone.

The guidelines of the group are important and should be clearly stated from the very beginning. Basics include confidentiality, expectations (e.g.re being on time; missing sessions; safety protocols; outside of group contact), and participation. Even having an agreement or contract for all group members to sign, agreeing to the group rules, may be helpful.

The “what’s said in this room stays in this room” guideline is especially essential in order for people in the group to feel safe.

And to really be able to utilize the group fully. You want to be confident that what you are sharing in the group does not find its way outside of the group.

Expectations are also important to state at the beginning. Such things as attendance and participation. And whether group members need to be in individual therapy alongside the group therapy.

There can be disadvantages too in support groups for anxiety or depression. Especially if the group is not run well. For example, poor boundaries in the group may cause members not to feel safe. Or if there is a victim vibe, “poor me” atmosphere. Another challenge may be handling other people’s emotions.

Ideally, group members feel lighter, less burdened, more connected to others and to themselves after a group session.

So, if you want to feel less alone, and challenge yourself to go outside your comfort zone, consider an anxiety or depression support group. As is true for nearly everything in life, there is no guarantee participating in a group will help. But an open mind and a well run group may be an ideal addition to individual therapy.

I am a Boston area licensed psychologist, specializing in working with men and women who know they could be deriving more – pleasure, meaning, and purpose – in their lives.

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