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Is a Support Group for Me?

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By Tena Gardiner, Senior Social Work Counselor, MD Anderson

"OK, my nurse suggested that I attend a support group for cancer. She mentioned that I might find it helpful in dealing with my diagnosis, but I'm not really sure how."

In the Department of Social Work I hear questions like this from patients and family members all the time.

At MD Anderson we have a number of support groups dealing with various cancer-related issues, facilitated by our very own Social Work counselors and other medical professionals. Here are some common questions and answers about support groups at MD Anderson that will hopefully help you decide if a support group is the right fit for you.

Top Six Questions About Support Groups

1.  What is a support group?
A support group is simply a place for people to connect with others going through similar situations. Group members can give as well as receive both emotional and practical support. It's also a great place to exchange information.

2.  Why join a support group?

Well, there are many reasons, but the most important reason is: obtaining support while weathering the emotional storm that is sometimes associated with a cancer diagnosis.

3.  What types of support groups are available?
MD Anderson offers many different support groups for patients, families and caregivers. Some of the groups are specific to the type of cancer diagnosis, while others are more general in nature and open to any type of cancer diagnosis. Some of the groups have speakers with an educational/medical focus, while others devote more time to patients sharing their experiences.

4.  What do I need to look for in a support group?
Some questions you may want to ask yourself when considering which group is right for you are: Do I want to attend a group weekly or monthly? Do I want a group that is facilitated by a professional? Do I want to share my personal experiences with others or do I prefer a group with a focus on information?

Some support groups in the community are peer-led groups. All the support groups at MD Anderson are facilitated by professionally trained Social Work counselors or other medical professionals.

5.  What happens if I don't like my support group experience?
Each group experience can be different. So it's important to attend the session a couple of times to get a true sense of what the group is all about and whether it's a good fit for you. If the group doesn't feel right for you or doesn't match your needs, try a different group. There are so many support options available for cancer patients and caregivers at MD Anderson, we expect you will probably find some option that will fit your needs. If on-site groups do not meet your needs, we also offer a number of online support portals and a patient and caregiver phone support program through Anderson Network.

6.  How do I find a support group at MD Anderson?
We try our best to keep an up-to-date list of support group meetings on our website. If you need more help finding a group, call the Department of Social Work at 713-792-6195 and someone from our staff will be happy to assist you.

Support Resources :

MD Anderson Support Groups List
Message Boards and Online Support
Anderson Network Patient & Caregiver Support Line
All Patient and Family Support Resources

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