- a Nurturing Potential report


Self-help is not an inevitable alternative to professional help, but it is certainly an option to be considered, if not exercised, before professional help is sought.  It was always available and, indeed, adopted in many cases and for a multiplicity of reasons.  But never was it as accessible and effective as it is today.


The internet is undoubtedly the greatest source of self-help information there has ever been.  And organisations and groups exist everywhere that offer help and encouragement to those who are anxious to help themselves.  The help ranges from simple emotional support (just being there!), through advice, direction, information, friendship, individual advocacy, and tools for diagnosis, exploration and recovery.


Despite the amount of help available for people to help themselves nowadays, it is sometimes necessary – or preferable – to seek help from a professional, someone who can view the situation impartially.  So, even when it’s more rewarding to treat one’s own complaint by virtue of increased self-esteem, greater independence, or simply less expense, to avoid a professional out of stubbornness is a poor strategy.


Having provided that caveat, let us now consider the development, growth and increasingly utilised groups for people who have either been diagnosed with illness, physical or mental, or have been through a traumatic period of suffering and treatment  and now regard themselves as survivors (or, as Abigail Freeman prefers to call herself in The Chrysalid Years: veterans), and are working together both for support and in order to produce change in the health system and in society.


It must be recognised that veterans are capable of being the most powerful advocates for reform, both on their own behalf and in defence of others.  The self-help group movement, after all, grew out of the idea that individuals who have experienced similar crises can provide effective support to each other.


Support groups offer an opportunity to be productive, to work together with others to find solutions to a variety of obstacles.  People who have experienced problems based on medication (or over-medication), social security benefits (or the absence thereof), housing, employment, neglect, families and friends, and others, are in a unique position to help others in a similar situation.


The first mental health self-help groups, for example, were started by people who had experienced what they regarded as an oppressive and abusive mental health system.  It was inevitable that they would want to join with others to fight the type of social discrimination faced by those with histories of psychiatric disorders.


To summarise the benefits of self-help groups:



Joining with others who have had similar experiences provides the invaluable resource of knowing that one is not alone; that others have walked the same path and have the same feelings.


Individuals, particularly in the mental health system, often do not have the support of family and friends. Self-help groups can provide the support that may be missing.


Self-help groups offer a haven for self-disclosure and sharing experiences.  It also provides access to relevant information and literature.


Self-help groups encourage personal responsibility and control over the individual’s treatment.  By actively helping others, the individuals gain a sense of their own competence, increasing self-confidence and self-esteem


A self-help group is a peer group; members are equal, in contrast to the profession/client relationship; and they are made to feel empowered to take an active role their own health and wellbeing.


There is a wealth of information about self-help groups and self-help strategies available on the Internet, but here are just four that we consider to be particularly useful.  Three of them are in the UK and one in America.


In the UK, the website operated by Self-Help Nottingham is not merely a useful guide to that geographical area, but contains information of general interest as well as a link to other UK groups.  It may be accessed via  The UK Helplines Association is located at  The office of the Surgeon General in the USA has a section on self-help consumer groups that is part of a large and interesting general report.  You can access the self-help section directly at

Finally for a complete directory of names, addresses and telephone numbers in the UK for just about every type of condition, try