Support Groups: How Do You Get People to Come Back?

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support_groupRecently, we’ve been collecting feedback from our Families for Depression Awareness members. Tonya from Kentucky indicated that she wanted more information on one particular question—how do you get people to come to your support group more than once?

Support groups are often a vital part of a treatment plan and can be places were people find community and understanding.  Tonya pointed out that, “I wholeheartedly believe that you have to attend at least 3-5 meetings before you know if the group is right for you.”

We posed this question to our Facebook friends and got the following responses:

“I try to give things more than one go before I make a final decision, especially since I fight depression and I know that my depression can skew my impressions.”—Sandy

“My experience has been that if the group is ran well and the group as a whole embraces the first-time participant, they will more than likely return. I always say that someone doesn't attend a group for the first time because they don't have anything else better to do. It's usually a crisis or a recent diagnosis that brings them to our DBSA group. Also, sharing contact information (if all are willing) can make new friendships and continue the support until the next meeting.”—Marilyn

“It’s not the group - sometimes the individual may have commitment phobia, social phobia, and is still coming to realize the impact of (him/her) illness. Time will bring (him/her) back.”—Kristine

Here are some other tidbits that we picked up:
  • If you don't already have group rules established, it is essential that you develop some.  Make the rules available to first-timers so they know exactly what to expect.  When they are deciding whether or not to return, at least they will have an idea of your meeting's structure.
  • Make sure new people are invited to share. They may need a little extra encouragement to talk on their first visit; don’t push, but gently encourage them to speak so they don't have to fight more established members to be heard.  Trusting the group with their story may increase the likelihood that they will feel at home with you.
  • Try to find tasteful yet clever ways to incorporate some humor.  Humor is a great stress reliever and can make meetings more enjoyable for first-timers.
  • Encourage members to bring helpful books or articles they’ve read to the next meeting.  Having a small task may make people more invested in returning.

We hope this helps, Tonya!  If you want to weigh in on this discussion, go to our Facebook page or email me at valerie@familyaware.org.

--Valerie, Families for Depression Awareness

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