Living in the community following brain injury can often result in isolation and depression in individuals who no longer possess the capacity to seek help via appropriate means. Support groups are frequently organized in the community in order to diminish these feelings of isolation and provide assistance through group discussion forums.
What evidence is there that support groups are of benefit for ABI patients?
- Based on the finding from three non-experimental studies, there is Level 4 evidence that support groups generate positive results such as improving feelings of hopelessness, coping with depression and improving psychosocial functioning.
Three studies focused on the efficacy of support groups. While Armengol 107specifically examined a support group for Hispanic TBI survivors, Hibbard et al. 108evaluated a community-based support program for individuals with TBI and their family members and Ownsworth et al. 109 evaluated a sixteen week group support program for twenty-one patients with ABI. In all three cases, significant results were found regarding improving feelings of hopelessness and being vocationally active in the first study, improving quality of life and coping with depression in the second study, and improving psychosocial functioning in the final study.
There is limited data to suggest that support groups are an appropriate means of providing a structure for individuals with brain injury to diminish feelings of isolation and depression. They appear to be an excellent vehicle for dissemination of information regarding living in the community with an ABI and provide direction to other resources if warranted. There is a need for further evaluation of these groups in order to define the most effective design of these programs.