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Support group activities will vary greatly depending on the purpose for the group and whether it is a formal or informal meeting. The structure of some activities and meeting agendas may be similar in several groups, but activities will usually be specific to the particular problem or condition that people meet to discuss. Some of the most common support group activities include introductions of both new and frequent attendees, reading from related literature, question and answer sessions, and time allotted to allow people to talk about their problems, progress and achievements. There may also be trust-building activities, educational games, plans to attend larger groups, and plans for special events.
One of the most common types of support group is known as a 12-step group. These meetings are available to help with everything from alcoholism to problems with clutter and disorganization. Groups that follow the 12 steps generally follow a structured and formal plan at each meeting. Timers may even be set in very large groups to make sure each person has some time to speak without causing the meeting to run long.
Introductions, readings from 12-step literature, discussions of particular steps, and time for people to talk specifically about themselves are usually the main support group activities at these meetings. Discussions of general issues as well as plans for events or for attending national chapters of the group often come at the end of the meetings. Some meetings also might be specifically set to discuss such things as an organization newsletter, outreach programs or advertisements. Even though 12-step groups are designed to follow a specific format, each group may incorporate other activities as they see fit.
Other types of support groups may have a much less rigid structure, with open-ended time for people to talk and offer support to one another. A typical support group will give each person a chance to speak without being judged and will usually allow newcomers the right to stay silent and simply observe. This can help in choosing a support group because it can often be easier to judge whether a group will be helpful by listening for a few meetings and getting a feel for the general tone and atmosphere of the group.
Adult support group activities may be quite different from youth support group activities. Some groups, such as those for divorce or self-esteem, may have activities designed to help people become more social. Groups that deal with health or loss may be more focused on sharing experiences. Youth groups are generally more likely to include games that help educate attendees about the condition or problem they are there to discuss. Activities designed to help the people learn to trust one another and get comfortable discussing their problems may also be more common in groups that welcome children and teens.