Frequently Asked Questions
A self-help support group is comprised of individuals experiencing a common life situation, illness or condition, who gather on a regular basis to share their experience and strength to help each other recover from or cope with their problem or situation. Mutual aid – members helping members – is the core strategy. These groups are generally free, although they may “pass the hat” or charge a small fee to cover their operating expenses. Self-help support groups are not professionally-run therapy groups. They can however be a beneficial supplement to professional services or utilized in lieu of or while waiting for access to professional services.
There are self-help groups for just about any kind of life situation, illness or condition, that affects the well-being of an individual. Members include people from all walks of life and cultures and may range in age from pre-school to older and elderly adults. The most common reason that people attend is because groups provide a place to talk with others who understand what they are going through because they share similar experiences and emotions. Realizing that you are “not alone” can be a great source of comfort. People that belong to support groups often learn to develop their own solutions, learn new skills and strategies to create ways of coping and/or recover their wellness and find hope by listening to how their contemporaries have learned or are learning to overcome, recover or cope with their challenges.
Besides community in-person groups, there are groups that meet online/virtually through electronic meeting platforms, like Zoom, Webex, Got to Meeting, Bluejeans. Other online groups take place via Facebook, websites, chat rooms, listservs and other internet venues. Some groups meet over the telephone or through email or “snail mail” correspondence between members.
That’s why we’re here! The Clearinghouse maintains an extensive database of self-help support group meetings throughout New Jersey, dealing with a vast range of topics. We also have contact information for over 1,000 national group headquarters, networks, online and telephone groups including many rare diseases. Call us toll-free at 800-367-6274 or request a group or groups through the email form provided to the right. We will do our best to help you find an appropriate group or groups.
If there is no local group, we can often refer to an on-line/virtual or a national group or organization that may provide information, support and networking.
Are you interested in starting a new local group? The Clearinghouse offers free assistance in getting groups off the ground. Services include ongoing telephone or video consultation, free workshops, technical assistance and helpful literature about starting groups.
For existing support groups, the Clearinghouse offers free consultation and technical assistance to help groups experiencing difficult or unfamiliar situations and free workshops online or in-person about running groups.
Self-help groups are not meant to replace needed professional/clinical services. Rather, they serve to complement them and sometimes reduce the need for them. Professionals have become increasingly aware of the value of self-help groups and often refer clients and patients to them. At times self-help support groups are utilized in lieu of or while waiting for access to clinical services. Many professionals contribute their services to groups as speakers or advisors.
Evaluation of a self-help group is determined by those who attend it. The group’s survival depends on the continued attendance of people who have found it helpful. Whether choosing a group for yourself, or as a referral for a client, you are the ultimate judge in deciding whether the group is appropriate for your needs. Prospective members can contact the group or visit the group’s or organization’s website (if available) or social media page to review any group materials. Self-help means control, choices, options and responsibility are in the hands of the group members.
Clearinghouse staff does not evaluate or rate individual support groups. We include self-help groups in our listings based on their own reports of no or very low fees, member control and above all, mutual aid: people helping each other. Our referral to a group does not constitute an endorsement of that group, nor does omission of a group from our listings signify disapproval. In the ever changing landscape of groups opening, moving to online venues or back to in-person venues or both, we do our best to keep our information as up to date as possible. There is no doubt that some groups may have escaped our attention.
If you receive help in a support group, please consider staying for a while to assist others. Self-help groups depend on the volunteer efforts of members to keep the group alive and running. Many members stay for the friends they make and to be part of the community. As people who have learned to cope with or recover from the issue being addressed in the group, they are uniquely qualified to give support to newer members. Similarly, those starting new groups often say they want to start a new group so that others don’t have to go through the “the hell” they had to go through alone. Either way, participating will likely benefit your emotional well-being.