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Leading A Support Group For the First Time

May 26, 2015

Recently, I was asked to be a speaker at a diabetes support group at one of our local libraries. The only problem was...that I had never conducted a support group! I reluctantly accepted and immediately set out learn the main purpose of a support group and how to conduct one.

Of course, I Googled it and here are three things I learned right away:

--The purpose of support groups is to allow individuals with common interests, conditions, or experiences to share and learn from one another.

--Support groups for individuals with diabetes provide a venue for sharing emotions, barriers, solutions, and for building new friendships. Many times individuals with diabetes might feel frustrated or alone. Perhaps they feel no one in the family understands the intricate amount of time, energy, and dedication needed to manage diabetes on a daily basis. Support groups are full of people dealing with the same issues and emotions.

--Support groups can be conducted in a multitude of ways; in person at local locations or on-line where one can connect with many individuals.

I am glad to report that I have now officially participated in my first support group and it was a wonderful experience! Some individuals were experienced with diabetes management and some were not. I took the “Take Charge of Your Diabetes” Prompt Deck and it helped guide the discussions. The discussions were productive and reinforced the notion that no two people with diabetes respond the same to physical activity, nutrition or medication.

Have you conducted or been part of support group? What advice or ideas can you share regarding how to get the most of a meeting? What are some ideas on how to find support groups?


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  1. Oct 01, 2011

    I conduct a diabetes support group once a month at the hospital based clinic. It is a small group. They proudly call it their meeting and everybody in the clinic refer to it as such. My oficial name for it is "Living with Diabetes". This group see each other as a family. Yes they share their daily struggle and excitements with diabetes. They exchange phone numbers and remind each other of their meeting date. They look forward to their meeting. I encourage them to decide the topic for the day which sometimes is different from what I planned for them. Most of the time they insist I decide . I use the AADE7 as a guide. The important thing to note is that the class is for the participants not for the moderator. This means that the participants use the forum to vent their frustrations/ struggle with their chronic condition and learn from each other. The moderator offer suggestions, correct misconceptions, offer emotional support, and practical approach to self-management of chronic conditions. In the class they have unwritten rule that each person should verbalize their concerns and participate in group activites. It is realy very rewarding to moderate the class.
  2. Sep 29, 2011

    I have used the AADE7™ Self-Care Behaviors Handouts to start conversations. The Quick thought and Activities usually are enough to generate lively discussion.
  3. Sep 26, 2011

    Having run numerous support groups over the years, I find that those in the groups really do like to connect, converse and feel like they are not alone. I begin by inviting everyone to introduce themselves and share their experiences and feelings about diabetes, and what they would like to learn more about. By the end of the group sessions, they feel like they not only have learned, but have made some new friends. I also bring a lot of visual props with me and minimize paper/handouts. If I use powerpoints, I use mostly photos or pictures, minimize words and make these talking points, not a reading exercise. And family/friends are always invited.
  4. Sep 26, 2011

    I have conducted three support groups; two adult and one pediatric. My first support group wanted me to teach them at each meeting and expected me to prepare the meeting for them. As I became more experienced I encouraged the participants to plan the meetings, determine the content, and participate in the discussions. Eventually I was able to guide them toward self-ownership of the meetings and discussions. I became more of a resource than a teacher. They got more out of the meetings and it was more enjoyable for all of us. The next two groups I led I started from scratch. Having some experience, I developed a much better format from the beginning. It takes time for the group to develop but once it does they are a great source of help for one another. One of the hardest parts of moving to another state was leaving the support groups behind. We had become very close to one another.

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