Five suggestions for finding a support group for family & friends of persons with CPTSD

If you are a friend or family member of someone with CPTSD you have probably thought about finding a support group. Maybe you have already tried or wondered how to even begin.

It’s also one of the questions I am asked about a lot. I wish I had a direct solution for you as to where to go exactly and how to find one that’s nearby and specific to loved ones and complex trauma but the sad thing is, I don’t.

As I write about a lot, there is a huge problem with support for loved ones of persons with CPTSD. If you have been following my writing for a while, this gap is exactly why I have this platform. I won’t get into the many reasons for the gap in care for families in this post but the truth is family support is undervalued, underfunded and under supported in many areas of physical and mental health.

BUT…

I do have a few broad suggestions and thoughts on how to find support that may be good enough to meet the need for formal support many loved ones are looking for. I talk about this in detail in my recent interview on on Therapy Chat.

Three considerations for your search

Before I get into the suggestions, here are three considerations for your search:

  1. You may not find a group that is trauma-informed or knows about complex trauma/CPTSD. This does not mean you should not attend but it is something to be mindful of. (On the other hand, you might be surprised as complex trauma is becoming more widely known.)
  2. You may also find groups use terms like ‘caregiver’ in their language. Caregiver may seem like an unusual term to use with complex trauma but I find it can be an accurate descriptor for the type of support – emotional and practical – many loved ones provide. If the term helps you to find a group, I encourage you to consider how it might (or might not) apply to you.
  3. You may have to do some digging to look for a support group. In Canada, where I live, peer support groups are not listed under a single directory. Sometimes groups that are offered through non profits are no longer available because the funding ends. Sometimes volunteer run groups struggle to find facilitators when a group leader steps down. It may take time and effort.

Five suggestions for how to find a support group

  1. Search for a support group for caregivers and families of those with mental illness.
  2. Search for another type of mental health category and family/caregiver support. Examples: depression, mood, anxiety.
  3. Consider an online group with the intention of connecting face-to-face in the future.
  4. Check with a local hospital or integrated health centre to see if they have a family support centre. Ask if their services are available to non-patient family or if they have suggestions.
  5. Consider taking a course to learn skills to better self-regulate. This is not exactly a support group but it may help you in your day to day life. I like the free and paid courses at Zen Caregiving Project.

Finally, other countries outside of North America may have started offering groups for CPTSD because complex PTSD is a recognized diagnosis in their mental health classification system.

Another resource for you

Whether you attend a support group or not, there are things you can do to internally help yourself on a daily basis. Looking after your emotional health is important no matter what. If you would like a deeper resource that teaches you about this, please consider purchasing my book Strengthening You: A guide to build, strengthen and support the emotional resources of those who care for persons with complex trauma.