Q. I’ve heard that attending a support group for a chronic health problem can be helpful, but I don’t understand why. Isn’t it just a bunch of people complaining?
Hopefully not. In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help for a particular shared, usually burdensome, issue. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks.
Formal support groups may appear to be a modern phenomenon but may build on certain supportive functions formerly carried out in extended families. They also share a loose relationship with the old-fashioned quilting bee or coffee klatch where women shared the happenings of their lives and learned from one another.