Support Group Experience

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
April 29, 2024
Interdisciplinary Care
April 29, 2024
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Support Group Experience

The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery hosts a support group within their premises. This is a facility that focuses on addiction treatment for IAFF members with PTSD. In addition, there is also a focus on addiction and other PTSD related behavioral challenges. People suffering from PTSD are likely to experience co-occurring disorders like drug and alcohol abuse with the objective of self-medicating or escaping symptoms hence the need for substance abuse inclusion in the support group. The objective is to ensure that the members take the first steps towards recovery. The support group provides members with an opportunity to share with other people that have faced and others overcome related challenges.

On the day of attending the support group, the demographics were somewhat diversified. There were 30 members in attendance. From this, 25 were male, and 5 were female. The age range was between 25 and 66 years. I thought these demographics were interesting, given the variety. This is because it entails people with different life experiences hence creating a great opportunity for everyone to learn something while attending.

Among the roles of the support group leader was facilitation. Through this role, the group leader helps the members to move through the desired process together. He tends to focus on how people are participating. There is the initiative of the group leader to initiate activities. I observed this more on occasions when there was no one else willing or ready to do what was required to be done. Through facilitation, the leader would also deal with interrupters through interventions and preventions. The kind of disruptions that the group leader was trying to prevent included the members who were trying to dominate, those that were going off the agenda or have side conversations among other things.

There were several therapeutic factors that I observed while in the support group. Among them was instillation of hope. A good example came about when one member was describing their first support group meeting. She explained that before that meeting, she felt like she was the only person in the world going through that. The surprise to her was everyone in the group had an issue of the same sort. She felt even more hopeful that she would get better given the progress that the members who had been there before her were talking about. They seemed to be getting better based on the information they were sharing, and this gave her the needed hope to carry on and see how things would turn out.

Another inherent therapeutic factor was imparting information. Exchange of information normally helps the members to move from one day to the next more so when it is coupled with psychoeducation (Sochting, 2014). An example that I observed while in the group entailed sharing of practical tips and resources for dealing with the issues that the members were facing.  There were members also sharing their success stories and the strategies that have helped them attain this success. This is something that gives members an opportunity to reflect on an array of information and apply the learning.

The altruism therapeutic factor was also prevalent in the group. Members were very willing to help each other in this group. Given the diversity in the group, there were members who were more experienced than others in different aspects of life and the conditions they were encountering too. This gave them the opportunity to share with others anytime an opportunity presented itself. It was apparent that they derived pleasure in helping other people. This came as an opportunity for them to give back to the group based on the progress it has helped them attain.

Development of socializing techniques was also evident. The meetings and interactions enable the members to practice social skills more effectively. This is a very important aspect since addiction or mental illness can easily contribute to withdrawal from social situations (Sochting, 2014). Social relations developed in support groups help members to become comfortable and feel as being in a safe place.

Group cohesiveness was definitely there too. Everyone seemed like the caretaker of the other and was ready to help when needed. This is an important aspect for a support group since it gives the members a sense of value, acceptance, belonging and security.

Regarding the needs of the group, I did not have sufficient time to observe the inherent needs of the group. However, one thing that I noted is that only the older people are sharing more compared to the younger ones. I think the group needs to come up with ways of ensuring that the younger members open up more, and they are not dominated by the older members. This aspect will work well on other younger members that will be joining the group. If they come in and people their age are opening up, they will adopt the same charisma, but they might end up being timid if that was not happening. Yalom & Leszcz (2005) assert that not being open enough in the sharing process can easily derail someone’s recovery process hence the need of trying to change this trend.

The experience of visiting the support group was quite eye-opening. I came to the realization of how people are suffering from varied issues. Many of the times, people seem like they are just okay, but deep down, they are battling a variety of issues (Friedman, 2015). While observing the members in the group, for most, you cannot even tell the kind of issues they are going through. They just seem like people living their normal lives. Here I got a feeling that it is also good to be kind to people at all times regardless of where you meet them. Showing empathy can go a long way since it gives such people hope in society.

The experience also gave me the feeling that the success of a support group can be easily determined by the leader. If the leader is effective, the support group is likely to reap the expected benefits. The role of facilitation looks minor, but in the real sense, it is very critical and requires someone with some sense of wisdom and people skills (Conyne, 2013). Personally, I felt enriched by the entire experience.  I got to see how therapy groups can be effective in helping people overcome the mental issues that they are undergoing. I have developed an interest in this area, and I think I will read more and conduct studies about this since it is something I would like to facilitate at some point in my life. I would like to see people continue with their normal lives after a traumatic experience.


Conyne, R. (2013). Group work leadership: An Introduction for Helpers. SAGE Publications.

Friedman, M. (2015). Handbook of PTSD, Second Edition: Science and Practice. Guilford Publications.

Sochting, I. (2014). Cognitive behavioral group therapy: Challenges and Opportunities. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Yalom, I., & Leszcz, M. (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.