Self–Help Group Report
Self-help groups are associations of people meeting regularly to discuss common issues. Self-help may suggest a focus on the individual, but an essential aspect of self-help groups is the concept of mutual support—that is, assisting one another. Self-help groups can be used for various reasons depending on the circumstance and the need.
The group’s membership is voluntary, and all group members have defined objectives that are understood and shared based on their needs (Christiansen et al., 2021). The paper discusses the theory and history of Self – Help groups and a reaction after attending three groups: Alcoholics Anonymous, Adult Children for Alcoholics, and the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America.
Self–Help Groups Theories and History
Alcoholics were the first persons in history to show the effectiveness of self-help organizations. To help “hopeless alcoholics” overcome their drinking after the medical community had failed to help them, Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 (Borkman et al., 2020). Civil rights movements started to arise in many industrialized nations in the 1960s as people realized the strength of their numbers.
The self-help group movement was able to grow as a result of these power-to-the-people movements. In various nations, the focus shifted in the 1970s from mass movements to small-group movements. In North America and Germany, self-help support networks such as self-help clearinghouses were developed in the 1980s.
These organizations provided information and referral services connecting the general public with the groups and aiding groups in development. The groups evolved to be international, and later in the 1990s, aided by the internet, the groups became international and online, strengthening and widening the interactions.
Self–help groups are based on various theories, including social coping theory. The theory involves managing particular external and internal demands perceived as stressful or surpassing the person’s resources requires ongoing cognitive and behavioral adjustments.
The theory is based on two independent parameters: The focus-oriented state and trait theories of coping take into account an individual’s inner resources and cognitive abilities for assessing how effectively he can cope in a given circumstance. The approach-oriented micro and macro analytic coping theories focus on the coping mechanisms’ level of concreteness or abstraction.
After attending the three self–help groups, I came out with a mixed reaction. The sessions felt hopeful and sad at the same time. It was pitiful listening to the members’ stories and realizing that it was more of a journey with no determined destination.
One of the members recognized that they have to call themselves “recovering” rather than recovered because it is a daily battle that one can easily fall. I was encouraged by the hope and strength of the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation, as they keep in mind that it can only get worse. I learned that the Self – Help Groups play a vital role in the recovery and coping of different groups. However, they should not be the sole therapy; the groups can invite professionals to attend and moderate a few sessions.
Self–Help Group Versus Psychotherapeutic Group Therapy
Unlike psychotherapeutic therapy groups, self-help groups are not facilitated by professionals, do not impose a membership cap, and do not impose a price for their services. In addition to companionship, mutual support, identity, experiential knowledge, and other benefits of a healthy group dynamic, they offer many advantages that professionals cannot (Li et al., 2020).
Each group also creates its ideology, or collection of ideas, regarding what causes the issue and how to solve it. This ideology is particular to that group and acts as an “antidote” to the issue that brought the group together.
Self–help groups are informal organizations whose participation is characterized by imparting knowledge and experience, providing assistance, and learning how to assist oneself. Governance is by the group members, and an external facilitator is brought on board only during formation. The groups have evolved over the years, with the internet bringing a significant revolution that connects people from different parts of the world from the comfort of their homes. The group sessions were characterized by experienced advice as a common need that unites members.
Borkman, T., Munn-Giddings, C., & Boyce, M. (2020). Self-help/mutual aid groups and peer support: A literature review. Voluntaristics Review, 5(2–3), 1–219. https://doi.org/10.1163/24054933-12340033
Christiansen, N., Walter, S., Zomorodbakhsch, B., Sartakhti, E. A., & Hübner, J. (2021). Assessment of Self-Efficacy as a Way to Help Identify Cancer Patients Who Might Benefit from Self-Help Group Attendance?. Cancer Investigation, 39(2), 133-143. https://doi.org/10.1080/07357907.2020.1867996
Li, X., Kivlighan, D. M., Paquin, J. D., & Gold, P. B. (2020). What was that session like? An empirically-derived typology of group therapy sessions. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice: The Official Journal of Division 49, Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy of the American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/gdn0000139