Many people attend their first bipolar support group meeting unprepared because they aren't really sure how to prepare properly in order to get the most out of the meetings. If you really want to benefit from attending, be sure to take the following steps:

What to bring to the meeting:

  • 1. Bring a pen so you can write information down
  • Bring a notebook so you can have a place to write the information you will be learning. I recommend getting a 5 subject notebook and putting all the notes from all the meetings in the same place to stay organized
  • Business cards if you have them, small note cards with your contact information if you don't have business cards
  • How to take notes at the meeting:

  • 1. Write down the name of the person speaking, the date and time and also his/her contact information at the top of the page
  • Take notes in bullet format. Don't worry about writing everything down verbatim
  • Ask questions when you are allowed to and make sure you wait for the microphone if they are taping the event. Nothing bothers the people running a support group more than not talking into the mike
  • Making the most of meeting others:

  • After the talk, quickly start to network among the people you may share something in common with. Ask for their email address and/or phone number so that you can keep in touch and "share ideas." Give you business card or index card with your contact information to people that request it.
  • If you have questions that are unanswered after the talk, you should email, fax or write the speaker. You start the letter off with "I was at your talk on …date…, and I had a question but was unable to ask it…." Every time I've done this (and I do it a lot), my questions were answered by a return call, fax or email.
  • Make sure you contact people in the room if you feel you can share some useful information with them or you think they may have some useful information for you.
  • When you go home, flesh out your notes and record items that you need to take action on immediately.
  • Organize the names and contact information of the people that you met and put them in your Bipolar Rolodex for future reference
  • Advanced Strategy:

    You can have two notebooks, like I do. When you get home, you neatly write down all the notes from the talk so you have a nice, neat copy. Or, you can simply type up your notes and save them as a computer file (I do this as well). All this writing and typing will help you internalize what you learned. Some people find this a bit repetitive, but I've found that this helps me remember things and really understand them. I am sure that you probably have never thought of this method to get a lot out of a support group, but once you've tried it you'll be surprised by how well it works for you. Try it.