People in crisis come together because of mutual need and because they can often no longer cope alone with their condition. One of the simplest yet profound benefits reported by people attending a self-help group is that of ‘no longer feeling alone’.
A person coming to a self help group for the first time usually has initial worries, for example, about things such as relating to strangers, embarrassment about speaking in a group, fears about revealing too much about themselves, concerns about acceptance and how other people view them and if other group members have had similar experiences. Everyone’s experience is unique and therefore not everything written here will apply to you. However, you may well find that any initial concerns you may have had will quickly diminish once you have been welcomed as part of the group. The hardest and most courageous step is walking in through the door for the first time.
The power of attending a self-help group facilitates communication between people otherwise separated by conventional barriers of nationality, class, ideology, sexual orientation, gender, race and language. A self-help group provides an opportunity to address concerns and difficulties in a supportive environment. One of the main advantages of being part of a group is that personal experiences can be shared with other members of the group, and as a result, a deep sense of belonging is cultivated.
Being accepted by a group of people who share similar issues can be both curative and permanent, and this fact alone seems to engender a sense of supportive community among its members. Feelings of powerlessness, isolation and of being misunderstood, which many people experience when they are suffering from anxiety, are often overcome as a result of the therapeutic effects of participation in a self-help group.
How Change Occurs
In the safety of a group, members are offered space and time, which can provide the context for needed changes to occur. A person can learn from both observation and direct and indirect participation. A person may hear something from others that they can relate to and find useful. Other members also serve as sources of feedback, as models, as guides and as encouragers. A person not only receives help themselves, but they also can extend it to others via feedback amongst themselves. Seeing others reveal embarrassing information and take risks and benefit from it will help a person to do the same. In the context of a group setting, human beings can be helped to meet each other as persons with similar struggles.