Peer Support Groups for PTSD
Peer support groups are a place where you can talk about day-to-day problems with other people who have been through traumatic events. Support groups have not been shown to reduce PTSD symptoms, but they can help you feel better in other ways. Because they can give you a sense of connection to other people, a peer support group could be a great addition to your treatment. Support groups can also help family members or friends who are caring for someone with PTSD.
Remember, if you are suffering from PTSD, it is important that you get treatment for PTSD as well. An evidence-based treatment plan provides the best chance of recovery from PTSD.
What are peer support groups like?
Some support groups focus on education. These groups often are led by a professional, such as a teacher or a doctor who shares information about the problem. Other groups focus on support. They often include only people who have the same problem. These are called peer groups.
In a peer group, you'll find people who are going through the same things you are. You'll see that you're not the only one. Others have the same feelings and challenges as you. Group members can give you support, advice, and encouragement. You can see what is working for others and decide if it might work for you.
You can help others in the group by paying attention. You can also let them know you are listening by sharing your thoughts. Your experiences and ideas may be new to them. Being able to help others is rewarding and helps you gain self-confidence.
How can I find a peer support group?
Here are some ideas to find a peer support group that can help you deal with PTSD or a traumatic experience:
Ask your healthcare provider, counselor, or other healthcare professional for suggestions.
Ask a clergy member for suggestions.
Ask your family and friends to help you search.
Ask people who you know have had a similar traumatic experience.
Check your library, community center, or phone book for a list of peer support groups.
Do an online search for “PTSD support groups” or for a group that relates to the specific trauma that you experienced, like “disaster support groups.” Forums, email lists, and chat rooms let you read messages from others and leave your own messages. You can exchange stories, let off steam, and ask and answer questions.
Look for a support group that works for you. Ask yourself if you prefer structure and would like a group leader, or if you'd like a less formal group. Do you prefer face-to-face meetings, or do you feel more secure in Internet chat rooms or forums? Think about what will make you feel most at ease. Know that you don’t have to share your personal story unless you want to, and that you can leave a group at any time.
Are there resources just for Veterans and their families?
If you are a Veteran, or are a caregiver or family member of a Veteran, there are resources to help you deal with specific concerns:
If you feel that you or your Veteran is in crisis, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1. You can also use the online chat, email, or texting service of the Veterans Crisis Line for immediate needs.
Call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center 877-WAR-VETS (877-927-8387) to talk with another combat Veteran, or visit the Vet Center homepage to ask about local support groups.
The VA Caregiver Support Line provides services and support to family members who are taking care of a Veteran. Call 855-260-3274 or visit VA Caregiver Support.
If you are a Veteran who wants to share your knowledge and experience with other Veterans dealing with mental health issues, learn about VA's Peer Specialist and Peer Support Apprentice positions.
Psychological Health Center of Excellence (PHCoE) Resource Center provides 24/7 information on psychological health and traumatic brain injury. Consultants can help you locate community resources by phone (866-966-1020) or email.
For children with parents who have deployed, the Department of Defense created MilitaryKidsConnect, an online resource for kids to find information and support.
For more information
Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD health sheet
National Center for PTSD