Partnerships Between Health Professionals and Self-Help Groups: Meanings and Mechanisms
This paper describes attempting a randomized clinical trial of the effects of self-help group participation among people with mental illness. The chapter discusses the applicability of an experimental design in self-help group research and suggest avenues for improving the design and implementation of research on outcomes of self-help group participation. People who met re-established criteria for severe mental illness were identified and randomly assigned to either self-help or non-self-help conditions while they continued with their customary care in the community mental health system. A community Advisory Board comprised of current and former clients of the community mental health center (CMHC), family members of people in psychiatric treatment, and local community mental health professionals held public meetings at the drop-in centers twice annually during the three years of the research project. Self-help group participation appears to be a self-selective phenomenon. Self-help activities appear to serve a subset of people in the community mental health system and recruit new members slowly.