How to Conduct a Support Group

by Doug Hewitt

There are thousands of support groups with more being created every day. They range from physical health to mental health and from family settings to military deployment situations. Whenever there is a need for emotional support, there are usually groups available to meet that need. Whether you want to conduct a support group that is a local chapter of a national organization or organize your own, knowing how to conduct the meetings will help give attendees the encouragement they need.

Start the meeting on time. While it's good to allow people who are late to attend the meeting, support groups give attendees the help they need when they know what to expect. Don't admonish late-arrivals, though.

Acknowledge the attendees by name and thank them for coming. It's important in support groups to recognize that they consist of individuals who are there to support one another. Set the tone of the meeting by striking a supportive tone.

Give everyone a turn at speaking. Support groups generally operate by allowing attendees to speak, and then other attendees voice support and give suggestions or information that the current speaker might not realize. If anyone gets off-topic, steer the conversation back to the subject at hand.

Practice good listening techniques by being attentive while people are speaking. This acts as a model for other attendees and shows what's expected. Make eye contact with people who are speaking.

Encourage people to show support by asking questions after a speaker is finished if nobody follows up with encouragement. Ask if anyone can help the speaker by relating their own experiences.

Ask if anyone has any additional comments to make after everyone has finished speaking. Encourage members to exchange information if they feel they can help each other outside of the meetings.

End the meeting with an encouraging speech and acknowledgments of everyone's participation. Remind everyone that the group relies on its members to support one another. State the date and time of the next meeting.

Tips

  • Support group leaders generally make themselves available outside of the meetings for moments of crisis for the group members.

Tips

  • Support groups can get out of hand if people are allowed to speak out of turn. New members can feel uncomfortable if they are asked to speak first.

About the Author

Doug Hewitt has been writing for over 20 years and has a Master of Arts from University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He authored the book "The Practical Guide to Weekend Parenting," which includes health and fitness hints for parents. He and his wife, Robin, are coauthors of the "Free College Resource Book."