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Self help groups and why they work
If you are looking for Nottinghamshire self help groups please click here.
Self Help UK aims to support other areas of the UK and help them create the kind of sustainable and thriving self help community that already exists in Nottinghamshire.
We believe, and its a belief held by the thousands of people who are active in the self help community here and backed up by relevant research, that participation in groups can considerably improve people's health and social well-being. In doing so it has a positive impact on health and social care services.
For the participants themselves, groups are a lifeline. People cite many reasons why they get involved but the most common are:
- Accessing relevant information
- Feeling empowered to take an active role in their own health
- Increased self confidence and self-esteem
- Opportunities to give as well as receive help
- Learning new practical ways of managing problems
- Gaining inspiration and support from others' experiences
- Feeling more in control and less isolated and alone
- Opportunities to increase social circle
- Opportunities to develop new skills
- Feeling less stressed, anxious or fearful
We’ve put together some tips for people looking to start groups, looking for a group and running a group, from both an individual perspective and from a practitioner perspective.
The benefits of self help groups depends very much on your relationship with them.
The philosophy of self help
The philosophy of self help is founded on three pillars: mutuality, reciprocity and shared responsibility.
The reasons for choosing self help are varied and often very personal., but making the decision to attend a group can be a very positive and empowering step.
Some people will be seeking reassurance that how they feel, act and cope is 'normal', while others may be looking for inspiration from people who have lived through a similar situation and have survived and thrived. Through mutual understanding and support, members of self help groups share their knowledge and expertise in coping and find common solutions through the collective wisdom of the group. This pooling of information and joint problem solving creates a wealth of information which individual members can draw upon at times of need. Groups foster a sense of personal responsibility and self awareness which can lead members to a greater sense of control and mastery of their particular condition or situation.
People go to self help groups to meet their own needs; they may stay on to maintain their gains and to meet the needs of others.
Hope and inspiration can come from listening to the experiences of longstanding members who have survived, overcome or conquered the situation or health issue shared by the group.
Personal stories are the lifeblood of self help support groups and enable members to pool their experiences in an extraordinary way.
Members learn new coping strategies, pick up invaluable practical information and benefit from the shared knowledge held within the group.
There is much evidence to suggest that the people who get most involved in running a self help group will also get the most out of the experience. Put simply, the more you put in, the more you get out.
This is particularly true in the helping relationship - it feels good to help; it raises self esteem and can restore a sense of self-worth and self-value.
For this reason many groups have developed innovative ways of including and involving as many members as possible in the business of the group. Some have rotating chairs, shared roles, sub-committees and open forums, all in an effort to avoid the few doing the most. A broad understanding of how people gain from self help can avoid the pitfalls of having a leader or founder member running all the affairs of the group.
Shared responsibility leads to shared benefits, even if at times it doesn't feel that way.