Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder triggered by a traumatic experience. It affects not only combat veterans but also victims of abuse, violent crimes, disasters and other traumas. If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, you aren’t alone. A PTSD support group can help you heal in a supportive, community atmosphere.
Group Therapy and Self-Help Support for PTSD
One type of support offered to PTSD sufferers is group therapy, in which you talk about and share your experiences with others facing similar challenges, under the leadership of a mental health professional. It can help you process intense emotions and make peace with traumatic memories. Two major categories of group therapy PTSD support groups exist:
- Time-limited: This type of group has a set number of sessions and people usually can’t join once the group has started. These PTSD groups usually include people from similar backgrounds, such as veterans or survivors of a particular disaster or type of crime. The focus of time-limited support groups is generally skills management and development.
- Topic-focused: Topic-focused groups are generally open-ended, single-issue groups that include people from many different backgrounds. Because these groups are ongoing, members can join or leave the group at any time.
Another support group option for PTSD is a self-help group. These support groups focus on a specific challenge, such as PTSD, but aren’t supervised by a mental health professional.
Benefits of PTSD Support Groups
Sharing with a group of people in a supportive environment offers many benefits to people with PTSD, including:
- Connection to a community
- Experience relating to others in a safe environment
- Feedback from different points of view
- Improved self-esteem from helping others
- Improved sense of identity and acceptance
- Increased insight from seeing how others handled problems.
Some people may feel more comfortable in a group environment than working one-on-one with a therapist, particularly if the patient is new to therapy.
Finding a PTSD Support Group
Many resources are available to help you find the right support group. If you’re a veteran, your local VA medical center may offer group combat PTSD support, or you can contact the VA PTSD information line at (802) 296-6300.
Here are a few other helpful resources to help you find a PTSD support group:
- Anxiety Disorders Association of America
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
You may also find it helpful to participate in an online PTSD support group or discussion forum.
Heal My PTSD. (2010). Group therapy. Retrieved July 7, 2010, from: http://healmyptsd.com/treatment/group-therapy.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. (2008). Finding a therapist. Retrieved July 7, 2010, from: http://ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_finding_a_therapist.html.