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A support group can boost your recovery
through education, peer empowerment and problem solving
by Jane Mountain, MD
A support or recovery group can boost your efforts toward recovery by providing a range of positive experiences. Here are three features you may want to look for in a group that is focused on living well with depression, bipolar disorder or other psychiatric challenges:
Medical knowledge is essential and helps you find and utilize treatment that is most appropriate. Street knowledge is what helps you live from day to day and minute to minute with the challenges of your illness.
Street knowledge embraces topics from how to keep from forgetting to take your medication to how to explain your illness to your best friend. You may want to learn how to tell (or not tell) your boss about your diagnosis. You may be asking what to do when you feel stuck in recovery. Or how you can save money when medical bills are mounting.
Within a safe environment of a high-quality support or recovery group, you can learn from and teach others the ins and outs of living with an illness. These lessons may take place formally in a group with planned educational events or informally with conversations among members. Street knowledge covers a host of questions that may never be answered in therapy. It complements treatment, and is not a substitute for treatment.
Peers might be those with the same or similar diagnoses. They could be friends or family members who are experiencing challenges due to the effects of the psychiatric diagnosis of someone they love. Peer empowerment recognizes the person beyond the diagnosis and encourages achievement of goals and dreams. Peers demonstrate mental wellness and recovery from illness. They share their own challenges and validate your struggles.
Problem Solving Around Life Challenges
Problem solving in a group is not giving advice. The conversational tone includes phrases like these:
Problem solving respects that each individual finds unique solutions to problems. It can have four basic steps:
Problem solving in a group of peers requires a safe and supportive environment where confidentiality is respected. It can jump-start your efforts toward recovery.
Mountain, MD, is the author of Bipolar Disorder: Insights for Recovery
and Beyond Bipolar: 7 Steps
© Jane Mountain, MD, 2006
Page updated February 1, 2009