Meetings: Frequently Asked Questions

1.  Who can attend the groups?
Our support groups are open to anyone over the age of 18 with a mood disorder, like bipolar disorder or depression, as well as to caring family members and friends of those affected by these conditions.

Please realize that our groups focus strictly on mood disorders although an individual may have an additional, coexisting diagnosis. For example, someone may have bipolar disorder while at the same time be dealing with an addiction to alcohol or drugs. (He or she does not solely deal with an alcohol addiction.)

More specific considerations:

If you are a patient: Most patients who attend our groups have a diagnosed mood disorder and are under the care of a physician. Many attendees also see or have seen a therapist.

Only you, perhaps with feedback from your doctor or therapist, can decide if attending a support group is right for you at a particular time.

Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  • Occasionally, an attendee may say something that could emotionally trigger you.
  • A wide range of personalities exists at meetings. There is strength in diversity. Don’t be offended if you disagree with a particular opinion someone shares.
  • Our groups are not “pity parties”. We seek to offer hope, help and encouragement.
  • We do not discuss medication by name nor do we suggest specific treatments.

If you are a family member/friend: You are welcomed to attend our groups. The meetings are enhanced by having parents, significant others, siblings, friends, etc. in attendance. Please understand, however, that our support groups are primarily patient-focused. Our emphasis is not on family education, although that may be part of the discussion. Time at our groups is limited, and we must first give attention to patients. Therefore, (depending on attendance) family members/friends may contribute or ask questions when time permits. Otherwise, we ask that you primarily observe.

Most family members/friends feel that attending our groups is a valuable, worthwhile experience. If you are seeking to better understand how to effectively support a loved one, hearing patient discussion can add balance and objectivity to that endeavor.

If you are a psychology, nursing or medical student, mental health professional or representative of any organization (clinical trials firm, pharmaceutical company, etc.) and your visit relates to your work: Please contact us in advance to make arrangements.

2.  What are our groups like?
The size and composition of our groups varies from meeting to meeting. Typically, you’ll find a fairly broad range of ages and backgrounds and a mixture of patients and family/friends. You are invited to attend as many different meetings at various locations each month as you choose.

Regardless of the location, you will find a core of fairly regular attendees coupled with newcomers at most any meeting. Many groups, depending on attendance, occasionally break out into smaller subgroups based on special interest such as couple’s support, depression support, bipolar support, family support, etc. However, attendees often prefer to remain together in full group, as they are able to benefit from a broader range of thoughts and insights.

3.  Is there a charge to attend the meetings? There is no charge to attend our meetings.

4.  Are the meetings  confidential? Absolutely. The meetings provide an opportunity for those with a mutual burden to share openly in an atmosphere where everyone respects each other’s privacy. Those who attend are expected to share nothing outside the meetings.

5.  What time do the meetings start and how long do they last? Meeting start times vary depending on the location. Please consult the calendar and meeting schedule. Most meetings last about 1 1/2 hours.  PLEASE ARRIVE ON TIME!

6.  How are the meetings conducted? The meetings are rather informal; however, they are facilitated by a trained peer (not a medical professional) volunteer. The main purpose of the meetings is to give people an opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns with the other group members. At most groups, there are people who have attended meetings in the past who are familiar with the process. If you prefer to just listen at your first meeting, that’s fine.

The format and style of the various meetings varies somewhat depending on the location, group composition and who is facilitating. That’s the unique, dynamic nature of support groups. (Please Note: While a location may have a designated facilitator, that individual is not necessarily always present. Remember, however, that group success depends on all in attendance and not merely on who facilitates a particular meeting.)

Please realize that these groups are not therapy sessions. Because we must give adequate time for all those in attendance to share, we cannot take an inordinate amount of time dealing with a unique, personal situation. We ask that attendees avoid dominating the conversation or interrupting when someone else is sharing.

7.  What happens if a facilitator doesn’t show up? This rarely happens, but there may be an occasion when last minute circumstances prevent a facilitator from being able to attend a meeting. If a facilitator fails to show up for a support group, those in attendance should proceed by discussing matters mutually beneficial for everyone present. If people are uncomfortable with a particular subject or question, hold it for the following meeting.

Usually there will be someone there who has attended the group previously. That individual can help lead the meeting. We appreciate your understanding.

8.  What if I’m having trouble making the decision to attend for the first time?  Well, you’re normal! Choosing to do anything for the first time is not always easy. However, the truth is that actually attending a group is what will afford you the insight you need to make an informed decision as to whether or not support is right for you at this time in your life. When you do attend a meeting, you can decide how much you desire to share. You are always free to simply listen, as that can be of tremendous benefit. We want you to get what you need from our support groups.

9.  Is attending once enough?
For support to be optimally effective, it needs to be ongoing. Therefore, the more you make attending our groups a routine part of your life, the better for your maintaining wellness. However, how often you attend is strictly your decision. We’ll be glad to have you whenever you’re available.

10. What if I have additional questions?
We welcome your questions. Please contact us. We want you to have the information you need.

We look forward to seeing you at a support group soon!