5 tips to follow when forming a family support group

One of the biggest myths when it comes to any struggle, issue or life challenge is the mistaken belief that we’re better off on our own. Here’s the truth: no matter your situation, the support of encouraging friends, family members and peers make problems easier to handle. Victories are sweeter when you can share them with loved ones, and setbacks are no longer enough to discourage you.

Especially when you’re dealing with a behavioral or mental health issue, a family can mean the difference between achieving and sustaining recovery, or otherwise slipping back into self-destructive actions and cycles. After just a few steps, you’ll be able to gather and depend on a family support group, advocates for recovery on your journey to freedom.

1. Identify what you need from your family support group

Before any further steps, make sure you know exactly what you need from your family support group. It’s also a good idea to document these requirements somewhere, even if you’re simply taking notes on your phone or jotting details down on a notepad.

When outlining preferences for your family support group, look to foster a loving, supportive environment, a community that allows you to openly be yourself. Surround yourself with non-judgemental family members who resonate with your thoughts and feelings. And more than anything, your family support group should be able to help you distance yourself from any challenges, to pursue and maintain positive change.

2. Outline the parameters for group gatherings and communication

You’re the one compiling your family support group. After you populate your support group with family members you know will support you on your journey to freedom and recovery, it’s time to outline group parameters. First, take the time to identify productive vs. degrading language. For example, words like “addict” and “abuser” are both accusatory and degrading, and do little to promote your dignity. Emphasize positive language as a focal point of your family support group, so that family members can speak freely while at the same time separating you from your challenges.

It’s also a good idea to identify methods of communication. Do you want your family support group to commune exclusively in person? Or are you open to the idea of a virtual family support group, where one or more members can have the option of joining through telecommunication platforms? Are there specific communication methods you’d prefer, or otherwise prefer to exclude?

You’ll also want to address logistics here. If there’s a dress code for family support group gatherings, you’ll want to make all members familiar with it. If you’ll be gathering at certain times, on certain days or in specific locations, family support group members should know well enough in advance that they can tailor their respective schedules accordingly.

3. Pursue a cohesive family support group dynamic

You know your family better than anyone. You understand which family members work well together, and you also understand which family members tend to butt heads on key issues. Family integrity is critical, especially when it comes to compiling a family support group you know will be able to help you navigate life’s challenges.

This means that you don’t need to feel bad about inviting, or otherwise refusing to invite, specific family memes from your family support group. Remember, you’re gathering this family support group with the intention of improving your own quality of life. If you believe that specific family dynamics have the potential to get between you and self-improvement, don’t be afraid to speak up. Similarly if family group members aren’t 100% committed to helping you improve, then you should consider other options.

4. Ensure group confidentiality

This step is somewhat of a no-brainer, but it’s critically important to both the short and the long-term the success of your family support group. Confidentiality is the foundation on which family support groups thrive; conversely, if confidentiality is compromised, it can derail the support group and make members afraid or entirely unwilling to share and to be vulnerable and open.

This is exactly why we suggest making confidentiality a pillar of your family support group from day one. Even if it feels like a given, take the time to familiarize all members of your family support group with your definition of confidentiality, and ensure that everything discussed in the support group remains there.

5. Emphasize accountability

Accountability is going to be key to the immediate and lasting success of your family support group. Put simply, members of your support group need to keep you accountable, especially once it’s clear what steps you need to take to see improvement. If you need to regularly take medication, your family support group must commit itself to making sure you take it. If you need to attend regular therapy or counseling sessions, it’s up to your family support group to make sure you regularly attend.

As a premiere counseling provider, we understand the importance that regular accountability can have on your well-being and outlook. At Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling, our sole priority is your health. That’s why we offer individual, family and couples counseling for mental health and substance use services. Call 1-800-809-2925 today, or schedule a consultation to determine whether life-changing Pennsylvania counseling services are right for you.