If you need help with a drug or alcohol problem, many services offer emotional support. They will actively listen to your concerns, support you to explore your options and help you to make a decision for yourself. Services that offer this type of support include help lines, online, drop in or one to one support services as well as support groups for drug and alcohol users and their families. Support services such as these are different to counselling and psychotherapy, which explore over a number of contact sessions how current concerns relate to past experiences and behaviours. Some support services may provide information on or refer you to drug and alcohol treatment services, including those run by the HSE. Some also offer information and support in relation to harm reduction. This is where the focus is on the prevention of harm caused by drug use, rather than on the prevention of drug use itself.
In support groups, members with the same issues can come together to share coping strategies and provide support and information to other members. They offer the opportunity to share personal experiences and listen to and accept the experiences of others. They may also help people to feel more empowered and find a sense of community. Support groups may also work to inform the public about a particular issue or take part in campaigns.
Peer support groups are fully organized and managed by their members. These members are usually volunteers and have personal experience of the issues of the group. These groups may also be called fellowships.
Professionally operated support groups are organized by professionals who may not share the problems of the members. They are often found in institutional settings, e.g., drug-treatment centres, hospitals or prisons.
Membership in some support groups is controlled, with rules for entry and membership fees. Other groups are open and allow anyone to attend an advertised meeting or take part in an online forum. Some support groups are fully online, where experiences and information can be shared by email, bulletin boards, blogs or online chat.