Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS A SELF-HELP SUPPORT GROUP?

A self-help support group is comprised of individuals experiencing a common problem or life situation who gather on a regular basis to share their experiences and strengths to help each other overcome or cope with their problem. Mutual help – members helping members – is the core strategy. These groups are generally free, although they may “pass the hat” to cover their operating expenses. Self-help support groups are not professionally-run therapy groups, but can be a beneficial supplement to professional services.

WHO BELONGS TO SELF-HELP GROUPS?

There are self-help groups for just about any kind of problem or situation 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 senior citizen. Probably the most common reason that people attend is because groups provide a place to talk with others who truly understand what they are going through because they, too, share similar experiences. Realizing that you are “not alone” can be a great source of comfort. Moreover, people in a support group learn to develop their own solutions, create new ways of coping and find new reasons for hoping by listening to how others have learned to cope.

ARE OTHER TYPES OF SUPPORT GROUPS AVAILABLE?

Besides the community face-to-face groups, there are groups that meet online through Facebook, websites, chat rooms, Listservs and other Internet venues. Some groups also meet over the telephone or through email or “snail mail” correspondence between members.

HOW DO I FIND A SUPPORT GROUP?

That’s why we’re here! The Clearinghouse maintains a database of over 8,600 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. Call us toll-free and we will do our best to help you find an appropriate group.

WHAT IF THERE IS NO GROUP IN MY AREA?

Don’t despair! If there is no local group, we can often refer to a national group 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 consultation, free workshops and helpful literature about starting groups.

COULD YOUR GROUP BENEFIT FROM ONGOING CONSULTATION?

For existing support groups, the Clearinghouse offers free consultation to help groups through difficult or unfamiliar situations, as well as free workshops statewide on running groups.

HOW DO SELF-HELP GROUPS MESH WITH PROFESSIONAL HELP?

Self-help groups are not meant to replace needed professional 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. Many professionals even contribute their own services to groups as speakers or advisors.

WHO JUDGES GROUP EFFECTIVENESS?

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 its website (if available) to review any group materials. Self-help means more control, choices and more responsibility in your hands.

Staff of the Clearinghouse does not evaluate or rate individual support groups. We include self-help groups in our listings based on their own reports of no 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. A few groups may have escaped our attention.

HOW DOES STAYING INVOLVED CONTRIBUTE TO GROUP EFFECTIVENESS?

If you receive help in a support group, please consider staying for a while to assist others. Self-help groups depend upon the volunteer efforts of members to keep them 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 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 most likely benefit both your physical and emotional well-being.