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SELF-HELP GROUPS:
A RESOURCE FOR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS

This information sheet is designed to help you work in partnership with clients to give the necessary resources and support to recover.

SUPPORTING CLIENTS IN THEIR RECOVERY

Recovery is a life-long process which does not end when clients are discharged from formal treatment. It is therefore incumbent upon the health care professional to support clients in their transition from the structured treatment environment to life outside of the health care system. This is done through giving clients tools, strategies and resources that they will be able to use once formal treatment has ended. Self-help groups are such a resource. Self-help is both a complement to formal treatment during the early stages of the recovery process, and a life-long support for clients as they continue their journey on the narrow path of recovery after treatment.


WHAT ARE SELF-HELP GROUPS

Self-help groups (SHGs) are fellowships of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other so that they may solve their common problems and help others to recover from their particular addiction(s).

There are no dues or fees for self-help group membership; groups are self-supporting through members' contributions.

Many, though not all self-help groups are based on the 12-step program of recovery. Twelve-step group meetings are held throughout the community; meetings are available 7 days a week, virtually 24 hrs a day. There are different types and formats of meetings including open and closed meetings, discussion, step, and speaker meetings. There are also meetings with a special focus such as for latinos, women, gay and lesbians, individuals with a co-occuring mental disorder and veterans. Some telephone resources are listed at the end of this pamphlet for further information.

WHY SELF-HELP WORKS:
FIVE GOOD REASONS

Self-help aids the process of recovery in five ways:

1. Self-help provides a social network based on commonly shared experience.
2. Self-help facilitates people's move from help-recipient to helper.
3. In self-help groups, people share specific ways of coping based on experience.
4. Those who cope successfully serve as role-models for individuals with less successful coping strategies.
5. Self-help provides people some meaningful structure which is not imposed by the outside but rather self-generated from the members themselves.

WHAT SELF-HELP GROUPS DO NOT DO

SELF-HELP GROUPS do not:

  • Provide treatment other than the support mutually shared by its members;
  • Make diagnoses or dispense medication
  • Take attendance, keep records or do case management
  • Provide advice, advocacy or training
  • Provide religious guidance other than the spiritual experience members derive from working the program.

WHAT DO MEMBERS GET FROM COMING TO SELF-HELP GROUPS

Following are some of the benefits self-help group members report from attending groups:*

  • Makes me feel accepted and respected
  • Improve personal interactions
  • Teaches coping skills, life skills and helps with social/interpersonal skills
  • Provides role models for drug-free life
  • Helps achieve and maintain sobriety and prevent relapse
  • Promotes self-awareness and personal growth
  • Enhances self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Provides meaning and a sense of of purpose
  • Provides a safe outlet for venting feelings
  • Provides a network of people with similar issues
  • Gives support and a feeling of belonging to a community of peers that combat isolation
  • Promotes independence and instills strength
  • Promotes taking personal responsibility for recovery

* data compiled by National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., New York, 1999.

HOW TO REFER A CLIENT TO SELF-HELP GROUPS?

There is no formal referral process to SHG. SHG meetings are held in the 5-boroughs, in community-based agencies, churches, psychosocial clubs. Although most meeting are open, some are held in treatment facilities and closed to outsiders. Please call individual meeting site to find out if group is open or closed before referring client.

ATTENDING THE FIRST SELF-HELP GROUPS MEETING

Having a client attend his first meeting with a SHG member is desirable, though not a must. As with any new experience, the first few meetings may be unsettling to clients; many have never been in a place where they hear others share freely about their chemical addiction and recovery. It is important that clients know that they do not have to share with the group and many will choose not to initially. Partaking in the experience of other recovering individuals in a trusting, open and accepting atmosphere will benefit clients from the first meeting; in time they will choose to attend again, and perhaps to participate. While clients should be encouraged to withhold judgment until they have attended a few meetings, the engagement process must not be hastened; rather, clients must be empowered to make their own decisions, to take charge of their recovery and to proceed at their own pace.

WHAT CAN YOU, THE HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL,
DO TO SUPPORT CLIENTS IN THEIR RECOVERY?

The benefits of self-help rest largely on individual empowerment. As a health care professional working in partnership with clients to support the recovery process, the greatest contribution you can make is to give clients the resources needed to effect that change in themselves. You can:

  • Find out about self-help
  • Educate clients about self-help
  • Refer clients to self-help
  • Encourage regular attendance
  • Support clients' initiatives to take an active part in self-help fellowships including starting and running groups.


THE TWELVE-STEPS

  1. We admitted we were powerless over [ADDICTION] and that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addict/alcoholic people and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Adapted from the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, AA World Services, 1976.

This pamphlet is adapted from the Double Trouble in Recovery, Inc. "Resource for Health Care Professionals" 1997.

© National Development & Research Institutes, Inc. 1999