You Do Not Have to Face a Health Issue Alone. A Support Group Can Help.

Sometimes, we need to lean on others when times are rough or life has thrown us a curveball. But who can you talk to that really knows what you are going through or how you feel?

Support groups provide opportunities for you and your loved ones to be surrounded by others who know firsthand what you are going through. They provide an environment for people who share common experiences, situations or problems and offer each other unique perspectives to approach challenging issues.

There are a wide range of health-related support groups that can bridge the gap between medical care and emotional support. They are often offered by hospitals and health clinics as well as nonprofit and community organizations. Other support groups may be run by just the members themselves, rather than an organization.

“There are many benefits to joining a support group,” said Arianne Iorfido, MA, LPC, Director of Clinical Operations, for Penn Highlands Healthcare. “Participants often report feeling less lonely and isolated, less depressed and anxious, more motivated to stick to treatment plans and better equipped to cope with challenges.”

While your doctor and healthcare team are likely compassionate and caring, they may not have experienced your specific issue in their own lives. Members of a support group, however, share your experience, and they may understand what you are going through better than even close family and friends. Talking and listening to others like you can help shed new insight into your feelings, anxieties and problems.

“The advantages of joining a support group go beyond the emotional support too,” said Mrs. Iorfido. “In many support groups, you may have the opportunity to talk with health professionals who can help you learn more about your condition, as well as help you find financial resources and social services.”

Joining a support group might seem like a scary proposition. Not everyone is comfortable discussing their thoughts and feelings. In most groups, though, you do not have to speak if you do not want to share. Simply listening can often be very beneficial. Over time, you may feel more at ease within the group and ready to contribute your own experience. It may also take some time to find the right group for you. Trying multiple groups can help you discover what type of group works best for you.

Since an illness in the family impacts all of the members, loved ones also may benefit from support groups. People who participate in support groups, either alone or with their loved ones, can gain a better understanding of the illness or condition; receive emotional support; and acquire more effective coping skills.

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers support groups for bereavement, breast cancer, breastfeeding, diabetes, metabolic and bariatric surgery, Parkinson’s, pregnancy and postpartum, prostate and sleep health. To learn more visit