What is Self-Help?

What is Self-Help?

“In self-help, you get help, you give help, and you help yourself.”

There is a natural tendency for people to seek acceptance, comfort and understanding, and to come together to openly share experiences and offer mutual support, without judgment or ridicule, in challenging times. Self-help is a process of sharing a common experience, challenge or concern. It is participatory in nature, and involves getting help, giving help, and learning to help yourself, as well as sharing knowledge and experience.

(I.AM.Me. Self-Help Facilitator Training Manual 2008)

“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another,

‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”

What is a Self-Help Group?

A self-help or mutual support group is any group which offers emotional support and practical help with an experience, challenge or concern that is common to all members.

Self-help groups can occur in a wide variety of forms, from two individuals sharing coffee and coping strategies, to small groups gathering in community meeting rooms, to large, incorporated organizations offering information, support and advocacy services. In 1989, the Self-Help Network of Kansas identified that, no matter the structure of a self-help group, there are three basic assumptions which govern the self-help process:

  • Each person can make a contribution to the group.
  • Each person is the ultimate authority on his/her needs and what will work individually.
  • Communications will be open and honest to promote positive group experiences.

Given these assumptions, a self-help group would follow these principles in defining their structure:

  • Self-help groups are Peer-led. They are facilitated by individuals who participate as group members, sharing the common experience, challenge or concern of other members, and who do not act as the authority in the group. As a group, all members decide on shared goals and tasks, and members share responsibilities on an equal basis.
  • Self-help groups are Open-Ended. People attend when they feel the need for support; there are no registration or attendance requirements. Sometimes, depending on its purpose (for example, to provide an educational event or training focusing on a particular issue), a group may be time-limited, where people attend for a specific period of time, and members would be asked to commit to this particular period of time.
  • There is no or little cost to attend. Groups may ask for donations to cover the cost of refreshments, publicity, rental of meeting space, copying of materials, etc. Groups sustain themselves through the resources of their members, and no one profits financially.

The Mental Health Empowerment Project offers technical assistance to individuals interested in starting and maintaining a self-help group. Please call us at 518-434-1393.