Support groups provide an opportunity for individuals to come together and share their experiences, struggles and successes. Individuals realize that they are not alone in this struggle, share similarities with others, and can learn strategies for coping with setbacks. They help at every phase of treatment and recovery. Through interacting and listening to others, participants come to appreciate their progress, and can help others along the way. (It should be noted that group participation is voluntary, and participants are never expected to share anything about themselves unless they feel ready.)
Those who have witnessed someone close to them battle an eating disorder probably have experienced a range of confusing feelings and questions. They may wonder how to be a support, how and when to intervene, when to back off, when to jump in and say something, and what to do with their own feelings of frustration, anger, sadness and helplessness. Often family and friends struggle alone, due to feelings of isolation, fear that others would not understand, or out of respect for the privacy of their loved one. A support group for family and friends offers a unique opportunity to share the questions, feelings, fears, struggles and successes with others who have been in the same situation.
Support groups are not a substitute for therapy, but rather an important addition to the treatment process. They provide a unique opportunity to gain feedback from peers who are struggling with the same dilemmas and problems. Although professional advice is not offered in the group, the experience of group members can be a vibrant source of wisdom and comfort. Support groups are a helpful adjunct to psychotherapy, as ideas that are generated in the group can then be addressed more thoroughly in therapy.