Friday, March 20, 2009

PTSD Healing: Finding the Right Support Group

My brother and I are in Miami on business, which last night included meeting a client at Miami Fashion Week. We went with high hopes for an interesting evening. We’re New Yorkers, after all. We know that Fashion Week in New York means high glitz, high fashion and high expectations for an interesting crowd.

What we got was the surprising understanding that High Fashion is not how Miami conceives of Fashion Week. The event, held in a warehouse on the outskirts of downtown Miami, was mostly attended by what looked like high school students and friends and family of the presenting designer and models. The designs were uninspired and the catwalk crowded with women slumping up and down rather than professional models slinking, high-stepping and stalking down the runway. On the professional and entertainment scale, the event didn’t exactly live up to what we envisioned.

Same thing can happen when we reach out. Not every support group is going to be The One. Finding the right support environment is a little like shopping, you have to have an idea in mind, try on a garment, and then keep searching for that piece that makes you want to part with your money.

I’ve been trolling around lately looking for good resources for finding a PTSD support group in any geographical location. Finding groups online is easy, but I’m not having a lot of success with finding a live group resource. Unlike other illnesses and disorders, it seems PTSD hasn’t yet been organized. I’ve called my state and local health departments; when I ask about a PTSD support group they refer me to the substance abuse program. While it’s often true that addictions become wrapped up with the PTSD experience, that’s not the focus I’m looking for.

It really bothers me that we can’t find the outlet and support we need. This is why I’m in the process of launching Heal My PTSD, LLC, which will be an organization to advocate for PTSD awareness, education, treatment and healing. (You’ve probably noticed the new logo!) One of the projects I’m really looking forward to is collecting nationwide support group data and offering it on the site.

In the meantime, I’ve begun polling all the professional mental health people I know. What’s the best resource for finding a local PTSD support group? I ask. The answers have been varied, but they include references to sites and organizations that are searchable and so may offer information in your area. Today, I thought I’d list a few ideas to assist you in finding a way to get off the computer and into the world:

FACT SHEET: HOW DO I FIND A LOCAL SUPPORT GROUP? (Start here for a really terrific and comprehensive overview of resources.)


NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL HEALTH (NAMI): Call your local chapter and ask for guidance.

Each state has a list of its local NAMI resources. For example, Cindy Nelson, one of my NAMI friends, sent me this link to the info they have on the Massachusetts NAMI site. (Her email is included, so you can write her for more info – tell her you were referred by me; she’ll take good care of you!) Check out the NAMI site for information in your state.


FINDGROUPTHERAPY.COM (Search the site specifically for Trauma/PTSD. The site is California-heavy in its information, but it is in the process of building a national database.)


Finally, I really like this article on the Mayo Clinic web site – not only does it outline benefits of participating in a local support group, but it also provides info on evaluating, finding and maintaining your own approach to interacting.

(For all you international readers, check with your local hospitals, information directories, clergy and local mental health organizations for direction to the proper resources.)

Some of the resources in your area may offer everything except PTSD. If you can’t find a local PTSD support group (and if you are juggling more than one issue) think about joining a group that addresses one of the other topics/diagnoses you’re dealing with.

And then, go to the group with high expectations. Try to make it work for you. Bret and I found the fashion event to be far below what we expected, but we have a good time together; we made the night work instead of being frustrated by what didn’t work. We viewed the event as a night for us to hang out together, which we don’t often have time for.

Reaching out to a group goes two ways, 1) what it has to offer you, 2) how you engage in it. See if you can make the best of the experience. And if you don’t like one group, go back to the resources and plan to try something else. It feels good to get out of the house. More than that, it’s good for us (even if it doesn’t feel good initially) to force ourselves to engage in the world outside. Find a group. Give it a try. If it doesn’t work, keep looking until you find a community that feels right. We heal faster when we stop isolating ourselves.


Troll the resources offered here. Make a list of groups that might be right for you. Pick up the phone and call 1 – 3 places to find information about where and when the appropriate support groups meet in your area. Take out your calendar; mark the next meeting date. Start preparing yourself mentally now to go to the next meeting.

If you come across a resource that offers good PTSD support group information in any geographic location, please leave a comment or shoot me an email so that we can offer it to everyone.

(Photo: Feeling Croppy)

1 comment:

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