Small group meetings of people facing similar challenges help many people in managing distress and side effects of cancer treatments.
Support groups and interventions at a glance
Support groups bring together people with similar circumstances or challenges. They provide a safe place for patients to share feelings and challenges, helping many people cope with the emotional aspects of cancer. Groups also allow people to learn from others facing similar situations.
Groups may meet face-to-face or online. They may be peer-led, or they may be moderated and led by a professional therapist or leader (but without providing psychotherapy, which would be a different type of group). Other support interventions described here include one-on-one peer support and print support materials meant to mimic information from a support group.
Support groups come in many different styles, with different purposes, and the interpersonal connections within them are unique to each group. For these reasons, assessing therapeutic effects is challenging. What may work well with one group or at a particular time (such as during chemotherapy) or with a specific type of cancer (such as prostate) may not translate well to other situations.
We have reviewed the published literature on support groups and interventions among people with cancer and offer the following ratings, but we suspect that individual experiences vary widely. Many people find support groups helpful, especially in managing distressemotional, social, spiritual, or physical pain or suffering that may cause a person to feel sad, afraid, depressed, anxious, or lonely; people in distress may also feel that they are not able to manage or cope with changes caused by normal life activities or by having a disease, such as cancer and side effects of cancer treatments.
If you believe a support group may help you through a difficult experience, we encourage you to find a group and try it out. If one group doesn’t work for you, you may need to try another one, or more than one, to find a good match. More than with many other therapies, finding a group that fits your interaction style and level, and your psychosocial and physical needs, is likely going to be key to your success.
CancerChoices ratings for support groups and interventions
We rate support groups and interventions on seven attributes, with 0 the lowest rating and 5 the highest.
See how we evaluate and rate complementary therapies ›