Matthew Chaddock has been running The IBS Network support group in Leeds for more than six years. In this blog post Matt explains why he trained as a support group leader and shares his advice for anyone thinking of training.
Why did you become a support group leader?
I became a support group leader because I was starting to make some real progress with managing my own IBS symptoms. I realised that it’s not one key food or medication that will turn the condition around but several small, considered changes to diet and lifestyle mainly.
None of the changes were what I would call ‘rocket science’. It was garnered from other IBS patients sharing tips, healthcare professionals with an interest in IBS and a lot of reading around the subject. It was frustrating that I hadn’t been able to access this knowledge sooner and I wanted to share tips, best practice and also support other IBS patients with the condition.
What difference does a support group make to people with IBS?
I think the main the difference it makes to people with IBS is that they can talk openly about their condition without fear of being stigmatised or not being taken seriously. They can attend the meetings and discuss as much or as little about their condition as they wish knowing that they feel supported.
The other major part of what we do is share best practice. No one person’s IBS is the same and not all treatments that have worked for one person will work for another, but there is crossover and we can make some pretty significant changes to someone’s IBS by sharing our own stories and discovering how other people cope.
What’s the most rewarding thing about being a support group leader?
I tend not to think too much about feeling rewarded. It just felt like the right thing to do at the time. I’d realised a lot of the things you can change to manage your IBS better can be reasonably simple despite IBS being a complex condition. I would say, thinking back, the most rewarding thing is providing members with the information that’s already out there and allowing them to pick and choose what works for them and finding the changes that make a real impact. I also think allowing members to openly discuss their condition with others is quite a powerful tool.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to set up a support group?
There has been the odd up and down along the way and I did wonder how much of a commitment running a support group might be before I started it. But my advice to anyone thinking of starting a group is that it is worthwhile. Hopefully, you can make a real difference to people with IBS.
You won’t be able to help everyone and some people might be frustrated by that so I think it’s important to bear that in mind and not take it personally. My other advice would be to not worry too much when starting up about small numbers. Promoting a group is a job that’s never done and it will grow in time.
How do I train as a support group leader?
The IBS Network trains support group leaders free of charge and provides help, advice and support at all stages of setting up a group. They’ll help you with setting up a group, marketing and running the group. As part of the training you’ll learn more about the techniques of engagement and active listening, the information people need to manage their IBS effectively, and how to support and motivate.
The next training days for 2019 are on Saturday 14 September in Sheffield and Saturday 30 November in Bristol.
How do I apply for the support group leader training?
To apply to become a support group leader please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll send you more information and an application form.
Where can I find more information about joining a support group?
You are not alone with IBS. Millions of people in the UK suffer from IBS and they all struggle to manage their symptoms. IBS support groups bring people with the condition together to share their experience in an open and non-judgemental environment. By attending a group you’ll meet other people with the condition, find out more about IBS and what you can do to try and reduce your symptoms. Visit The IBS Network website to find a support group near you.