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Support Groups: Caring for Those Who Care

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

When we think of support groups, we often consider groups designed for those personally struggling with mental or physical illness. Also more prevalent are support groups for caregivers of those with chronic physical illness. Less common is the conversation around support groups for caregivers of those with mental illness. However, these groups do exist and can act as an important resource within the mental health community.

What does “caregiving” entail?

Many mental health concerns can enlist the time and energy of loving partners, friends, and family members. Depending on the severity of one’s mental health struggles, caregiving tasks can vary. Caregiving for some may mean handling a loved one’s finances, managing medical appointments, and preparing meals. (This is the more traditional sense of the word, indicating a hefty time commitment.) Caregiving for others, however, may include more day-to-day emotional commitments, such as navigating how to talk to one’s partner during times of distress or consistently worrying about a friend’s tendency to self-harm. Whatever caregiving looks like, it likely proves challenging at many moments, resulting in emotional fatigue and a difficulty to care for the self on top of caring for another.

Group therapy as a resource for your mental wellbeing.

Receiving support and partaking in other acts of self-care is a priority for caregivers, as they can greatly benefit from designated times throughout the week to turn their caring energy fully inwards. As a result, the caregiver may feel not only more nourished and emotionally grounded within the self, but also more engaged and present for the caregiving relationship and responsibilities.

How can support groups help?

Sometimes, an individual struggling with mental illness is resistant to receiving help; in other situations, they desire support from their loved ones but do not know what kind of help they need or perhaps lack the energy to verbalize those needs. Either way, the caregiver is likely left in a sea of unknowns – wanting to help their loved one swim, yet barely treading water themselves. Support groups can act as one of those designated self-care times to improve the wellbeing of both the caregiver and the relationship.

Support groups for caregivers (to whatever degree that care extends) can be a valuable place to learn more about the illness one’s partner/friend/family member is dealing with and to feel heard, seen, and understood by other people in similar situations. As there are many concerns a caregiver may feel uncomfortable discussing directly with their loved one at first, support groups can serve as a safe space to vulnerably bring forth these conversations. There they can receive the necessary psychoeducation from the group leader if needed and also gain personal insight from other group members’ life experiences. For example, the partner of an individual with major depressive disorder and suicidal ideation may be feeling scared for their partner’s safety and uncertain about how to speak with their partner in a helpful, caring manner during a depressive episode. On another note, the caregiver of an individual with severe schizophrenia who is in-and-out of in-patient treatment may be seeking advice on navigating the mental health care system, including filing insurance claims and administering medication.

Finding a group that fits

As evidenced by the two examples above, there is a wide range of expectations one may have from a caregiving support group. Many groups are condition-specific, allowing partners, friends, and family-members to find a group that best aligns with their loved one’s condition and treatment status. Secondly, with the expansion of telehealth in our society, some groups are offered both in-person and virtually, allowing the caregiver to choose a meeting that best accommodates their schedule and location. Lastly, a group that meets weekly for a predetermined number of weeks could be too grand of a commitment for some upfront. However, if a caregiver is looking for an introduction to the world of support groups, many one-time seminars exist, such as the National Alliance for Mental Illness’s 90-minute online “Family & Friends'' seminar.

If you or someone you know is feeling the impacts of providing care to a loved one with mental illness, speaking with a knowledgeable group facilitator and individuals in similar situations could serve as a powerful tool. Support groups can be a safe, welcoming place to learn how to better support both them and you.


Find Support Groups by Condition, Etc:

By: Hailey Bean

Mental Health Counseling Intern


On pins and needles: Caregivers for adults with mental illness. (February, 2016). National Alliance for Caregiving.


Mercer, M. (2021, August 31). How to find the right caregiver support group for you. AARP.


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