Perhaps you’ve decided to join a diabetes support group or take diabetes education classes. Perhaps you’re thinking about group psychological counseling. Or perhaps your doctor offers group medical appointments. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself in a diabetes group.

In a diabetes support group, people with diabetes get together to help each other cope. Members give each other emotional support and practical help. Some groups are led by a health care provider. Some support groups bring in speakers. You can find a diabetes support group in your area by calling your local American Diabetes Association office or going to the website

Diabetes education classes teach diabetes self-care to many people at a time, instead of individually.

Group therapy means psychological counseling given in a small group instead of one-on-one. The group usually consists of people with similar concerns, such as people with diabetes.

In a group medical appointment, several patients share one doctor’s appointment. The appointment may last as long as 90 minutes. People have time to ask questions, get to know their doctor, and learn from the other people. Group medical appointments are most common in health maintenance organizations and other managed care plans. But some private practice doctors use them as a way to spend more time with each patient.

You may feel uneasy talking about personal matters with strangers. But your fellow group members have faced many of the same diabetes issues as you. You can learn how they have dealt with them. Many people find it comforting to know that they are not alone in their feelings and frustrations. Sometimes, it is actually easier to share strong emotions or private thoughts with strangers than with family or friends.

Getting counseling, education, or medical care as part of a group instead of by yourself has other good features:

  • It may be less expensive than a traditional appointment.

  • You may get an appointment faster.

  • You may spend more time with your health care provider and get to know each other better.

  • You may learn more. Other people may ask important questions that you had not thought of.

These tips will help you get the most from your group and be a useful member:

  • Learn as much as possible about the group before agreeing to join. What is the group’s purpose? How often does it meet? How long do meetings last? Must you attend every meeting? Is the membership fixed, or does it change? Who leads the group? Who decides what happens at meetings? What does it cost? What, if anything, is expected of you? What are the ground rules? Then ask yourself whether the group will provide what you need or want.

  • If a group sounds useful, don’t let fear keep you away. It’s normal to be nervous about going to a group for the first time. You’ll feel more at ease at later meetings as you get to know the members.

  • Don’t drop out after one meeting. Attend several meetings to get a better sense of the group before deciding the group is not for you.

  • Prepare for meetings. Before each meeting, set a goal. For example, your goal might be to get advice on how to remember to check your blood glucose level or to provide support for a scared newcomer.

  • Treat everyone with respect. Don’t repeat private information outside the group.

  • Before revealing embarrassing or private information, ask yourself whether you’d mind if it got back to your boss or grandmother.

  • Accept that other members have a right to their own feelings and thoughts. There is no one right way to react to diabetes and its effects on daily life.

  • Don’t hog the conversation. Let everyone have a chance to speak. Save stories about your fishing trip and photos of your new grandchild for breaks or for before or after the meeting.

  • Keep in mind that you have the right to be silent or not answer questions.

  • Don’t believe everything you hear. When another member gives you advice, always talk to your doctor before acting on it.

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