Ideally, support group meetings should provide various methods of support for the people in attendance. This, however, is not always the case. While a support group meeting should be a positive, uplifting and encouraging gathering of like-minded people, they can also foster an atmosphere of judgment, anger, and accusations. Support groups that continue in a negative direction and do not provide support are not likely to last very long. The best of these groups are those with a group of people who want to help one another find solutions to problems and to provide a place of sharing, encouragement, and acceptance.
Most people want to have a chance to be heard, and in good support group meetings, sharing happens when the members of the group have concern for others and not only for their own problems. People feel safer when a group works to provide a positive environment that is free of judgment and accusation. Typical support group meetings actively encourage individuals to share comfort and advice based on personal experience. In most support group meetings, a group leader or facilitator can intervene to prevent any sort of negative comments from occurring.
Encouragement is offered in effective support group meetings. It is sometimes hard to find and hard to get from those who are actively involved in one's life and work. In times of stress or when someone is dealing with an addiction, a difficult relationship, grief, or divorce or when life's problems seem overwhelming, encouragement from another person can have a positive effect. The best support groups will likely include a facilitator, leader, or members who are adept at providing encouragement.
The best support groups involve people who do not want to judge people or to change the way they feel about a certain issue, challenge, or problem. Acceptance is the hallmark of the most effective support group meetings. A support group should foster an environment in which people feel comfortable enough to speak freely and openly without fear of criticism or judgment. Due to the nature of these meetings, most members in a specific support group will likely have experienced similar problems and issues. This similarity should allow for an open atmosphere of acceptance within the support group.
Most support group meetings begin with member introductions and a time of sharing what may be important to individuals in the group at that particular time. Activities may also be a big part of some support group meetings. Sometimes, the group may decide to invite an outside speaker to present specific information on a particular relevant topic. Facilitators or group leaders may plan ahead and encourage group participants to become involved in an activity that serves a specific purpose like approaching a touchy subject or providing a means for people feel closer to one another and share on a deeper level.