Everything You Need to Know About Online Support Groups

A woman turns to support groups online for comfort during a tough time.

Contributed by Christine Binney

If you are struggling with a difficult situation, the encouragement of your family and friends may not always be enough to help get you through. There will be times that you need more help than even they can provide, and that assistance can come in the form of a support group. Support groups provide a safe place where members can share ideas, explore feelings, provide advice, and lend emotional support to each other. Members create a strong bond because they can relate to each other’s unique experiences in a way that others may not be able to.


Why Online?

While there are thousands of support groups in existence across the United States, you may not always be able to find a local group that you can identify with. Whether you live in a small town, suffer from a rare disorder, or have mobility issues that keep you from traveling to meetings, it isn’t always possible to find a local support group.


Luckily, geographic location is no longer a barrier to connecting as there are countless online support groups which can provide you with the community you need. Now it’s possible to connect with people at the click of a button. There are support groups online that deal with all forms of disease, addiction, depression, and caregiving scenarios, just to name a few. Whatever issue you may be dealing with, you can be sure to find multiple support groups filled with members facing similar experiences.


The benefits of support groups can be realized whether you meet members in person or on the web.  These small organized groups exist to help people realize that they are not alone in their struggles. Just knowing that there are others who are working to overcome the same struggles as you can be a huge revelation and make things easier to endure.


Find Your People

It can be particularly hard to find local support groups when you are suffering from an uncommon ailment. However, thanks to the internet, there are countless opportunities to find online support groups which connect people with rare disorders who might not otherwise have met. The information and advice that can be gleaned from others who share a similar experience is an invaluable resource.


Communicate Anonymously

Another benefit of online support groups is that they provide an added layer of confidentiality to your interaction. Anonymity can make the initial process of opening up and sharing intimate information with strangers a much more comfortable experience for many.


Exchange Messages in Real-Time

Some online support groups allow for synchronous conversation, where members can exchange messages back and forth in real time. Members can select certain dates and times to log on to the remote meeting and a back-and-forth conversation can take place in much the same way as it would during a face-to-face meeting. The immediacy of this type of conversation helps foster a sense of intimacy and community among group members. Having set meeting times can also give members a sense of structure and provide them with something positive to look forward to each week.


Or Message Whenever, Wherever

Other online support groups are set up as asynchronous groups, where members don’t need to be connected at the same time. In this instance, members can read previously posted messages and also leave their own, whether it’s through internet bulletin boards, forums or e-mail chains. These groups are especially helpful for those with busy schedules, and they can help members across different time zones communicate with ease. Asynchronous groups are also helpful since they provide around-the-clock availability, allowing members to read or post messages whenever they need support most.


Support groups online allow people to participate in a form of therapy that they can integrate into their larger support system and treatment plan. The best part is that it can all be done from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Remember that support groups are not just for people who are personally affected by a certain problem, but they are also invaluable resources for the family and friends who serve as caregivers for them. Consider online support groups one of many healthy choices for caregivers and you’ll soon understand the remarkable power of community.