Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists

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Should Support Groups Always be Upbeat and Positive?

Jan 20, 2012

Do you run a support group? Have you participated in one as a presenter? What have you found works for getting members engaged?

I have questions about two specific kinds of support groups, those for people with diabetes and those for weight loss/management.

First, let us look at support groups for people with diabetes. I was distantly involved years ago. It was a small group of people with diabetes, generally long-standing diabetes with many complications and challenges. I tend to be pretty upbeat and positive, but this was a bit hard. I guess that makes me ask, “Does a support group have to be positive?” I feel it does, but can someone comment about this? If so, how do we make it positive?

It is easy to get into discussions about the great challenges faced by the participants. Does it help to have speakers (hoping to provide some answers)? Does the facilitator go into each meeting with a topic or plan? I think using the Diabetes Education Prompt Deck from AADE could be a great start for this. Have you used the deck? How it is working? I just heard that another companion Prompt Deck is being sent to members too. The new deck is all about diabetes complications and is supposed to help us facilitate conversations with patients. I can't wait to hear how some of you will use it in your individual or group sessions!

The other type of group that I mentioned and one that I currently help to facilitate is a support group/follow-up group for our weight management program. It is specifically for people with diabetes. As we all know, for many it is much easier to take weight off and become more active when we follow a plan and have support. That is the idea of our weight management program.

To help people continue to lose/maintain, without the intensive support and cost of the program, we have a once-a-month meeting of “graduates” from the program. We have tried a few different things to provide a positive experience. I am not sure what works best. We have gone into a meeting with a distinct plan of things to talk about and an educator presents the topic and leads discussion; we have gone in ready to have open discussion without a topic; and we have told the group in advance about an area that we want them to prepare for. Most recently, we asked them to bring in a positive idea to avoid high-calorie snacking. Many had a list, on paper or in their head, of strategies, and that seemed to work very well.

Have you had experience with either type of group? Do you bring in speakers? Do you have a plan? Do you leave it open? Does it always have to be cheerful and positive to be beneficial? I would love to hear from you with what you think has, or has not, worked!

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