Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
There are different support groups available for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is essential to understand where to look for PTSD support, whether it is online or in-person. Depending on what is most comfortable for you, you're likely to start your search with an option that fits your needs. Getting help through a support group has helped many people deal with their feelings while understanding how they affect their lives. Connecting with others through support groups helps with coping while gaining informative insight and reducing isolation. Here are some tips to help you find group support for PTSD.
How To Get Leads
When you're new to joining a support group, you may not know where or how to start your search for leads. When you are interested in joining a group, it helps to know where to begin your search. You can get tips or information from people you know, including coworkers, family members, and your primary doctor. Think about people you know from the community, such as your local church or people you know that work in the community. When considering a search online, search for local groups for the city you live in. You may find groups available online through social media.
Get access to the yellow book pages for additional leads. You can find mental health support groups with websites or contact information, leading to open groups seeking new members. Consider checking the websites of local community mental health centers. Some have open groups that meet on certain days of the week, in-person and online. Getting leads for potential groups will be based on which help option you want to use. If you prefer online support, you'll find different ideas based on types of trauma or living situations.
Getting Help For PTSD In-Person
There are a few things to keep in mind when considering in-person options for support groups. Many in-person options provide support for people experiencing various types of trauma or stress. Besides finding opportunities through people you know, mental health agencies and community health programs with outpatient programs include PTSD group support. Group support is also available for special groups such as veterans, people suffering from mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety, and gay or lesbian people. Churches may provide faith-based support that includes working with a church leader or other church members.
Mental health organizations such as the Anxiety Disorder Association of America (ADAA) may provide local access to groups created by local citizens. If you don't find a local option to join, similar organizations will let you make one for your area. Besides meeting with peers, they provide self-help tools and how to connect with a therapist or counselor if you suspect you have a mental health concern.
Getting Help For PTSD Online
As previously mentioned, mental health organizations and community health centers provide in-person group options. Many of these same organizations and agencies offer online support. You may start off using online support and work your way up to meeting in-person in some cases. It is common for people seeking help for PTSD to connect with people through online forums. Many PTSD forums are open to new members while also meeting members' needs. There are groups available by age, also known as peer groups, where you can connect with people in your age group to help you cope.
There are online groups and forums for veterans, people with mental illness, and options for the general public, such as the National Center for PTSD. Joining online support groups through organizations that advocate for mental health allows you to gain additional resources to lead to local connections. You may learn how to connect with a local counselor or peers who can relate to what you are going through. Such organizations and agencies provide up-to-date details about mental health concerns such as PTSD that also make good conversation topics.
Additional Tips For Online Support
If you use social media, there are different forums and groups available. Some forums and groups provide additional options for people to get support. For example, you may find forums designated for PTSD but have a specific scope or purpose. Some groups are small, and group moderators work to keep them small, so group members feel comfortable and engaged. Other groups may offer an email address, online chat, or messenger where you can share with one or a few while developing your interpersonal communication skills.
Some forums are an open community with sub-topics that talk about a wide variety of situations. You can read stories, tips, advice, and more. Some groups are for people who experienced a specific type of trauma, such as sexual abuse or addiction. Such groups also work to create a safe environment for users. They may have rules on what you can post and discourage members from being hostile toward others.
Pay Attention To How You Can Join
While there are many support groups available online and in-person, it is essential to pay attention to how you can join. Some groups are open to the public and welcome new members at any time. Some groups have rules or considerations for members. Some groups have closed meetings that specify it is for members only. Some exclusive groups have codes or abbreviations related to the status of their members and the services provided. A group may require an invitation to join, or you may request to join by contacting the group before their next meeting.
Benefits Of Support Groups
When you join a support group, you gain benefits that make a difference. Whether you choose to meet in-person or online, you establish another form of support for whatever you're going through. You meet with other people that can relate to your pain. When you find a group you feel comfortable with, you feel less isolated and gain a sense of belonging. You have a place where people will listen to you and make things easier when you're ready to share your experiences. You get the help and support you need while helping and supporting others.
Joining a support group helps you learn about coping skills and techniques that work. You can learn new things and gain more insight into how past experiences affect your life. At the same time, you are enhancing the way you live. As you get more comfortable sharing with others, you gain confidence in yourself. Opening up to others helps you realize you are in control of your life. Being a part of a support group helps with developing friendships.
What Happens When You Join?
When seeking a support group to join, it helps to get an idea of what to expect as a member. Most groups want you to feel a sense of belonging and are open to members sharing their experiences. Some people may not be comfortable doing so early on, and that is okay. Many groups provide rules, tips, and advice on what to do when joining and what members find helpful when participating.
You don't have to talk when you don't want to, and you can share as much or as little as you want. Many new members take their time observing the group before participating. People find it easier to share their experiences through a group instead of with family or friends, so they don't feel judged. Take your time getting to know a support group, and remember, you can choose another one if you don't feel comfortable. You can join a group and be a member as long as you like. You may find the connections helpful and even recommend the group to others.
Support Group Help Is One Part Of Coping
Going through a traumatic experience may leave you feeling scared and confused. You can use support groups as a coping tool to help you stay focused and hopeful for the future. While online options provide convenience and privacy from your home, they should not be a replacement for in-person help such as therapy or counseling. Sometimes trauma leaves such a dramatic effect on feelings and emotions; it is best to work through them with someone you trust in-person when possible.
When you feel alone and want to talk or help someone else, a support group is a great option. Counseling centers may provide support groups for people by age and trauma. When a mental health center or counseling center offers group support sessions, you get to work with a trained specialist or counselor that understands why you're hurting.
Group support for PTSD is a great opportunity to gain self-help tools to improve your mental health. You can connect with peers that understand what you're going through. PTSD groups provide support by helping members feel like they belong while giving them space to share their experiences. Whether you are new to joining a support group or experiencing a relapse of symptoms, the support provided ensures you stay focused while working your way to recovery.