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I haven't been to a support group. In my country there isn't a single support group. So I have only read about them online. And the only thing that I've read is that they "provide support" and various other forms of that. I know that people share their personal stories and progress. But there are no books or guides or rules or how to conduct a support group.

What is the format of a support group? Suppose it's for social anxiety, social phobia. What do we do in the group? What are the various activities performed in the group? And lastly, are these activities actually helpful?

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    Usually, support groups are run by professionals trained in relevant skills. Are you one, or do you know one? If not, before you go any further, you should at minimum take an in-person course in mental health first aid. – user35 Jan 24 '17 at 8:17
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    @Emrakul - really depends on what it is a support group for. Support groups don't have to be run by a mental health professional, though in general having a counseling background can be helpful in guiding discussion. It certainly isn't critical though, in fact, in some cases, it is preferred to just be an average joe, such as how AA often works. – AJ Henderson Jan 25 '17 at 5:58
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The basic idea behind a support group is just to get people with the same issue together and talk about it so that people can learn from the experience of each other. The most important aspect is probably secrecy. People need to be able to trust each other to open up, which is why what is said in the group stays in the group for most support groups.

Beyond that, it really depends on the overall goal and what the people you have are. A key skill for someone leading such a group is to be able to get people to open up. If people don't open up about what they are going through, it's of very limited value. Beyond that, if the group is being directed in a particular way, then you would need more general psychology background to help steer the conversations in much the same way that a guided one on one session works, but with multiple people participating which can change the dynamic quite a bit.

Ultimately, it is mostly about providing support though by showing people that they aren't alone and that they can help each other, so it's less about the leading and more about the group.

Alcoholics Anonymous is probably one of the most successful support groups out there and they have a lot of good information publicly available about how to start an AA group. This is a document that they have about starting an AA group.

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