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The origins of peer support harken back to a psychiatric hospital in late 18th century France. In the U.S., the concept of peer support gained traction in the mid-1960s and took off by the 1970s. Today, support groups help people cope with a wide range of mental and physical diseases.

Support groups are important in recovery because they provide a safe haven in which people coping with similar mental health issues express feelings and offer support to one another. Peer support can help reduce the feelings of isolation often experienced by people struggling with mental illness and addiction. Facilitated by a group leader, clients participate in process-oriented, educational and experiential therapy. Support groups enable self-discovery without the fear of being judged or misunderstood.

How Support Groups Help

Being able to share with peers going through the same thing can be empowering. Realizing others have similar problems helps people open up, an essential part of recovery. Several studies have found that humans need social interaction to thrive. Social connection also supports addiction recovery and can help prevent relapse.

Benefits of Support Groups

During group sessions, clients are able to interact with others in a safe space while keeping each other accountable. Sharing input, feedback and personal stories in a supportive setting works to build understanding and a sense of fellowship. Benefits include:

  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced risk of relapse
  • Greater empathy
  • Increased self-understanding
  • Improved coping skills
  • Improved self-management strategies
  • Improved self-esteem and well-being
  • Decreased feelings of shame
  • Heightened sense of acceptance and belonging

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