Frequently Asked Questions
What is chronic illness? A chronic illness is a physical or emotional health challenge that has no known cause or cure and often stays with a patient throughout life. People can be diagnosed with chronic illness at any age. Chronic illnesses can be invisible, meaning the symptoms cannot be seen. Some common categories of chronic illness that we see in our support groups are: autoimmune diseases, rare diseases, invisible illnesses, physical disabilities, chronic pain conditions, and more.
What is a rare chronic illness? A rare chronic illness is a disease or disorder that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans at any given time. Please note other countries may have different ways of measuring rare disease.
Who leads your support groups? All of our support groups are led by licensed mental health professionals, who have specialized training in working with the chronic illness population.
Are your groups still meeting?
If you see a program listed on our website, it's still meeting. Our support groups meet ongoing and don't end. If a group is not getting ample attendance, we may continue discontinuing it, and at that time it will be removed from our website. You can see a full list of current support groups here.
I am a student working on a healthcare-related degree in a university program, and my program / class is asking me to shadow a support group. Can I attend one of yours? We understand that shadowing a support group could be a valuable learning opportunity for students wanting to go into the healthcare field. The main goal of our programs is to provide safe spaces for chronic illness patients to have conversations with others who understand what it's like to live with ongoing illness, something many of them can't do with others in their day to day lives. In order to keep the spaces safe and confidential for attendees and to honor this experience for them, we do not currently allow students to shadow. Additionally, many of our groups are at full capacity with long wait-lists, so allowing students to shadow would mean that someone living with chronic illness wouldn't be able to have a spot and get the support they need.
What is the structure of a typical meeting? Our groups are designed to offer a safe space for people living with different types of health challenges to come together and share their stories and experiences as well as learn tools and insights for living as well as possible with their illness. Our facilitators may offer structure to the conversation depending on the nature of the group, for example, our mindfulness group may include sharing and discussion as well as meditation or self-compassion practices.
How often do the groups meet? Our groups vary in meeting frequency - some are once a month, while others are once a week or twice per month. All support groups meet for one hour with exception of our Creativity and Chronic Illness group, which meets for an hour and a half.
I live outside of Seattle or Washington state, can I still join? The majority of CCI's programs are open to individuals living anywhere. We do have two specific groups for only those who reside in Washington state and for which you will need a password to attend.
Why are your programs professionally-led? Can I facilitate a support group? There are many valuable peer-led resources out there for the chronic illness community, however, not very many professional ones. The professional ones that do exist often come with a cost. We wanted to remove any barriers that might exist for patients obtaining the support they need and create a unique opportunity for them to receive compassionate and professional support while being able to connect with others living with similar challenges. Currently, only licensed mental health professionals and those who are master's level students in internship with our organization can facilitate groups.
Do you have any groups for my specific illness? At this time, the majority of our support groups are designed to bring people together who live with different types of health challenges, rather than focus on one specific illness. If you are interested in an illness-specific group and there are not any already being offered by an illness-specific organization, please contact us. We look to fill gaps in support within the chronic illness community and may be able to start a group for a specific illness or group of illnesses if no other resource exists. We do offer some illness-specific groups for the rare disease community, including cystinosis and thyroid eye disease.
How is this a free service? We understand the high price of living with chronic illness - between medical appointments, often expensive medications, and tests and surgeries. When we created CCI, we didn't want accessing our programs to be another financial hardship on chronic illness patients and their loved ones. That being said, we are a nonprofit organization, and it does take money and resources to make these program possible. If you are interested and able, we would be grateful for your contributions. Learn about all the ways you can contribute on our Donate page.
How do I sign up for a support group?
Visit the HeyPeers website
Enter your email address, and click continue
Enter your first and last name, and choose a username
Choose a password, and agree to the HeyPeers Terms & Conditions
Enter some demographic information and agree to Center for Chronic Illness disclaimer
Find a meeting from the List or Calendar view, and click Register
To watch our webinar on getting signed up on HeyPeers, visit our YouTube page.