In our smartphone-centric society, there is now an app for basically everything. We now have the tools in the palm of our hands to take greater control over our health, and we’re not just talking about the physical kind.
We all use online fact sheets and symptom checkers whenever we’re feeling physically unwell, but there are amazing resources online for our mental health as well, including online group support.
That being said, we know that some people can be quite skeptical about online group support. Talking to strangers online can be daunting, especially about thoughts and feelings you keep close to the chest. Additionally, speaking to strangers can be difficult in person, so how can you form a meaningful relationship online?
These are pretty typical thoughts we hear, but the truth is, there are loads of benefits of receiving online group support. To be honest, we could write endlessly about all of them, but here are five that are worth highlighting.
First and foremost, online group support is accessible, way more accessible than in-person groups or individual therapy. By being online, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home (or even your bed!). This is incredibly beneficial for people living with chronic pain or chronic illness, people living with debilitating anxiety, depression, or burnout, people who work multiple jobs, parents who are always juggling a million and one things, and so many others. If you find travel difficult or impossible, you can still receive the information and emotional support that you need.
The accessibility of online group support has never been more true than during the last year and a half. With lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing, if you had access to in-person support, it was mission impossible to get there. The beauty of online group support is that you can access it anywhere and anytime, even during a pandemic.
But before COVID19, what made the accessibility of online group support so beneficial is that in-person support was, and still is, out of reach for many. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, there is an unequal distribution of psychiatrists and psychologists across the United States. In other words, there aren’t enough mental health professionals for people that need them. Online group support is a great accessible option to close the gap.
Through online group support, communication never ceases. In addition to your regular group meeting, you can send texts or emails at any time you feel you need help or someone to lean on. If you’re having a particularly bad day and your regular group session is a while away, you still have an outlet and someone to talk to. We said it once and we’ll say it again, one of the best things you can do when you’re having a hard time is to let it out. Through online group support, there is always someone on the other end who is there to listen.
Another perk? Online group support is affordable. Individual therapy generally costs 65-250$ per hour or more. If you have insurance, you typically have to pay a co-pay, which can be either a few dollars to $50 or more. Most online group support platforms, like Circles, charge a fraction of that. In fact, one full month of group sessions at Circles costs less than one private therapy session.
What makes participating online even better is that you can branch out from your bubble and meet people from all walks of life. If you live in rural Wisconsin, you can meet someone going through a similar struggle who’s living in New York City. Meeting people from diverse backgrounds will actually help you gain better insights into your experience. Being with strangers also grants you the ability to be true to yourself. Because they don’t yet know you, they don’t have any preconceptions or expectations of you. You don’t have to worry about them changing how they feel about you because they don’t have anything to compare.
Moreover, because they’re also going through something similar, you can be free to be true to yourself and your experience. It’s truly a safe space because it’s a completely judgment-free zone. How can your group judge you if they’re going through the same thing?
The objective of online group support, ultimately, is to help you feel less alone by connecting you with others facing the same challenge. The ability to access people in the same situation, just from the touch of a button, can help you feel less isolated and more hopeful.
No one can understand your situation better than people who are also going through it. There is no greater sense of belonging than knowing people can truly empathize with you. Platforms for online group support, like Circles, are a fantastic medium through which you can start your journey to getting better with people who actually understand what you’re going through.