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Copyright © 1998 Head Injury Hotline
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Support Groups
From The Ashes:
A Brain Injury Survivor's Guide

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The purpose of a support group is sharing with and supporting one another for the mutual benefit of the total group. Some essential elements of a support group are:

• Awareness of common needs and strengths
• Sharing concerns and strengths with peers
• Active, involved listening and being heard 
• Acceptance of differences
• De-stigmatization — Free-up energy to get on with life 
• No-fault vs guilt, blame, denial
• Building a sense of community – a sense that you’re not alone
• Sense of belonging and caring
• De-victimization 
• Openness, breaking the silence 
• Expansion of rights, self-advocacy, systems advocacy
• Demystification: access to information, keep it simple 
• Free exchange of information 
• Mutual aid, help is not a commodity 
• Networking, people to people
• Sense of community
• Self-empowerment, self-care and self-actualization 
• Interdependency and self-reliance vs Dependency 
• Meeting and accepting needs of others
• Support, acceptance, giving help, and receiving help
• Anti-elite, non-expert, non-status orientation 
• Democratization: bottom-up vs top-down leadership
• Peer emphasis vs hierarchy
• Spiritual values
• Direct action, unity, verses competitiveness
• Validation: Recognizing the value of experiential wisdom
• Gain a sense of optimism about change, growth and recovery
• A place to find courage and take risks, non-judgmental

Definition of a Successful Support Group

What is a successful support group?

A successful support group is one in which the individual 
members feel they are: 

  • getting and receiving emotional support,  and 
  • are giving or receiving information that helps them grow and
  • building tools to support and sustain them on their journey.
It doesn’t matter how large the group is, Groups vary widely
 in size and format. The important factors are mutual trust, 
understanding, confidentially, and involvement of members 
in helping each other and in getting the information and support 
that they need and want.

How can a group succeed and thrive? 

1. Clear understanding of purpose 
2. Convenient meeting time and comfortable, accessible location 
3. Skilled facilitator (s) to conduct the sharing and discussion sessions
4. Organized, dependable coordinators 
5. Good grasp of resources and services in your area
6. Ability to assist members to gain access to resources and services 
7. Ability to identify and attract speakers for group education 
8. Balanced program of: 

a. support 
b. education, and 
c. socialization
9. Printed handouts and other information distributed at meetings

Clear Understanding of Purpose 
Group Goals

The primary purpose of a support group is to help the members meet their needs for:

• Emotional support
• Information, and 
• Social Interaction
• Empowerment
• Self-determination
• Advocacy

Individual Goals

• Peer support
• Acceptance and understanding
• Non-judgmental 
• Active listening
• Being heard
• Education and information
• Access to resources
• Companionship and socialization
• Strategies for success
• Personal growth and empowerment
• Advocacy


Striking the right balance for your group is essential to the success and maintenance of the group. Not every member will want to be involved at every level of group activity nor should that be a requirement of membership. Each member should have the option of participating at the level of their needs and comfort. 

A group that looses sight of its primary focus and purpose of as emotional support, education and socialization might be in danger of losing its way and overtaxing its human resources and its ability to attract and maintain membership. A division of labor and responsibilities is essential to the maintenance of the group. 


If appropriate, establish a clear schedule for support group time verses other activities of the group. Allow people to attend those groups of interest to them. When attendance increases and more diverse needs are present, consider dividing the group into smaller subgroups, such as:
• survivors in one group
o within the survivor subgroup there might be a 
        need for a group for high level functioning 
• families, friends and caregivers in another, and 
• professionals in another group, and 
• those interested in social and/or community issues
• also consider a subgroup for those interested in vocational, interpersonal and other issues


Dedicate time at meetings to discuss developments pertinent to brain injury on the state and national level. 

Provide news items and policy changes or expansion resources that might be of benefit to your group.

Provide phone numbers and contact information to facilitate access to supports and services. 

Consider joining with other neurological organizations to amplify your concerns to policy makers

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Copyright © 1998 Head Injury Hotline