Peer Support Group: A Guide To Successful Peer Support Groups In 2020

Are you looking for a peer support group? Do you wish to connect with like-minded people for advice and guidance? Do you need support to go through a chronic illness or mental health issues? Are you looking for a free space where you will be accepted and understood? If you have answered yes to any or all of these questions, you have come to the right place.

My name is Sean Galla, and I am an online support groups facilitator with more than ten years of experience. Part of my work involves working with peer support groups. This gives me firsthand experience in how a peer group can help to enhance the quality of life of the members. If you are looking for a place to learn, grow, help others, and get help, a peer support group is exactly what you need.

In this article, we will cover everything about peer support groups and what they are all about.

Sean Galla

Written by

Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.

What Is a Peer Support Group? 

A simple internet search for peer support groups near me or a peer support group near me will give you thousands of results for support groups in big cities, small towns, and rural areas. With over 500,000 groups in the United States, you can get a peer counseling group for different needs, from people struggling with substance abuse and mental illness looking for health care to people surviving domestic violence and gender-based issues.

A peer group can be termed as a regular meetup of men or women with shared living experiences. Usually, these peer-to-peer groups can meet physically or online. Also referred to as a self-help group, support groups compromise of people who share common experiences and problems associated with health conditions, illnesses, and personal circumstances. In a peer group, members have a free space where they can talk to peer specialists about their lives to a group of people, or one person through a helpline, who are in similar situations or have gone through similar situations. This gives you a good chance of getting valuable insight, references, and help through firsthand experiences.

Common characteristics of peer support groups are:

  • They comprise of peers – these are people directly experiencing or affected by a specific issue, circumstance, or illness.
  • They are usually small in size to ensure they can address each member’s needs
  • They are led by volunteer peer specialists or professional facilitators/discussion leaders
  • They are voluntary to attend even though some people can be compelled to attend by employers or court systems as part of mental health services. 

Benefits of Joining a Peer Support Group

Peer Support Group 

If you are looking for an inexpensive way to get assistance, a support group is one of the best choices you can make.

While some people have large groups of friends and family members they can go to when faced with a problem, other people do not have this kind of support system. Being diagnosed with a chronic condition, or a mental health issue can be one of the most challenging times of your life. Joining a peer support group for people going through the same issues is the best way to learn how to deal with your new lifestyle.

Unlike women, men find it hard to open up and ask for help. If you are a man in need of support, a peer support group is the best place to get help from fellow men going through the same issues. Life can be unpredictable, and sometimes you may find yourself feeling alone and vulnerable. A support group can help you navigate this huddle. You do not have to suffer in silence, and you do not have to be alone.

A peer group can be a resource of information that you can use to handle different circumstances. If you suffer from mental health issues like PTSD, depression, anxiety, or any other, a support group can be the perfect resource for mental health professionals who can help you to manage the condition. It is also the ideal place to learn more about chronic illnesses from people who have had the condition for longer.

The ability to learn firsthand from your peers is the best reason for joining a peer support group.

Other benefits include:

  • Meeting other people going through the same thing ensures you know you are not alone
  • You get to make new friends and meet people who understand you
  • You learn to trust again
  • You learn of healthy ways to cope with your situation
  • You learn how to open up about issues that bother you

Who Can Join a Peer Support Group?

At any given time, there are more than 6.25 million Americans using peer support groups, with more than 1.5 million people having participated in a peer support group at some point in their life. Almost anyone can join a peer support group. Peer support groups are safe spaces that address a wide range of issues like:

  • Parenting
  • Eating disorders
  • Diseases, injuries, and chronic conditions
  • Physical disability
  • Sexual identification issues
  • Unhealthy or bad habits
  • Bereavement
  • Emotional problems
  • Addictions

Apart from serving people directly going through these issues, peer support groups are also open to family members and friends to people going through any of the problems highlighted above. There are also family support groups that offer social support to family members and friends. For instance, Al-Anon is a social support group for friends and family members of alcoholics.

What Determines the Type of Peer Support Group?

Peer Support Group Topics

Different organizations, groups, and individuals offer different types of peer support.

Common issues

Peer support is meant to bring together people with shared experiences to get mutual support. People in the same support group share a common problem. For instance, a peer support group for people with PTSD is exclusive to members who have PTSD. This may not serve a person with depression the same way an exclusive depression peer support group can. Other groups can cater for people with a shared cultural background or people suffering from a chronic ailment. Some peer groups are for people in need of life guidance. Having an issue in common is the basis of a support group.

Peer support group activities 

A peer group is also determined by the activities the members take part in as a group. Some groups are purely for discussing and sharing about topics that affect the issues in the group. Other support groups are meant to connect members with professional help like a mental health system and public health resources. The type of peer support activities you are interested in is dependent on your need and issue.

Access to the Peer Support Group

There are online and offline peer support services led by a group facilitator/peer support specialist. For offline support groups, members meet at pre-set times. Group meetings take place weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, depending on the needs of the group members. The main disadvantage of an offline peer support group is that you can only access help when there is a meeting, or you choose to connect with a member/role model from the group outside the meeting times.

Online peer support groups come in different types. They include chat-based platforms, text-based forums, and video meetings.

Most people prefer the online-based platform because of anonymity. If you prefer not to connect physically with members of the group, you can choose a chat-based forum where you can talk virtually with peer supporters to get the help you need. Online based support groups like Mensgroup.com are available round the clock, ensuring members can get help whenever they need.

Top 4 Peer Support Groups 

Amputee Coalition 

Amputee Coalition is a support group that brings together people going through a traumatic experience from losing a limb or people born with limb loss. It has more than 400 groups around and more than 1500 peer visitors, making it the perfect place to get emotional support, vital information, and encouragement to facilitate a full recovery.

Wounded Warrior Project 

Wounded Warrior Project is a veteran peer support group. With more than 113,000 registered members, this group gives you an extensive network of heroes just like you. The peer groups take place in different states across America, where they cover veteran peer support group topics. It brings together veterans in need of support where fully-recovered vets can become peer group leaders to new members. A search for a ‘peer support group for veterans new me’ will give you access to information on the nearest peer support station.

ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder Association) 

ADDA is an online peer support group that meets every 2nd and 4th Thursday. The purpose of this peer group is to offer virtual peer support group sessions to adults with ADD/ADHD in a non-judgmental and safe environment.

Men’s Group 

While most peer support groups cater to people of all genders with mental health issues or chronic illnesses, Men’s Group is a men-only online support group that offers peer support to any male looking to connect with others. At Mensgroup.com, men are free to talk about anything. You will find peer support groups for different conditions, life or career advancement, and advice, as well as general support groups. This is a forum for mutual acceptance, self-discovery, and understanding amongst peers. Participants can join chat rooms or meet with others through video calls. With Mensgroup, you do not have to go through life alone.

Peer support group activites

Final Thoughts

Peer support groups are essential parts of dealing with everyday life. They are especially important to men as it is harder for them to open up and share their life struggles. An online peer support group like Mensgroup.com is a safe space where male members can join anonymously and learn from their peers on different aspects of life. With the right peer support group therapy, you are sure to make lifelong friends who will positively impact your life.

*Sources:
1. What is the role of a peer support leader?
2. What is the role of a peer?
3. What is peer support worker?
4. Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction
5. Peer Support: Research And Reports
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