self help groups

Self-Help Groups (SHG) : Types, Joining, Benefits

If you’re going through a challenge, you may need someone who has walked down the same path and survived it. A self help group is what can help you in this scenario.

Self-help groups bring people together to share their common problems, challenges, and concerns to seek mutual help, support and acceptance. 

In the past decade, SHG organizations have gained popularity all over the world. Now that people are more aware of their well-being, they are more concerned about joining these organizations for self-help.

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There is evidence that supports that over 25 million Americans have been involved in self-help groups at least once during their lifetime. That means they have something to offer which might help you as well.

So, in this article, we have a thorough guide on what exactly they are, what they do, and how you can join the best self help groups and get the advantage.

What Is A Self Help Group?

According to APA Dictionary, A self help group is a group of people from similar backgrounds who arrange meetings on a regular basis to share their life challenges, emotions, and concerns.

These groups are not like therapy groups that are led by professionals and charge a fee. Self help groups consist of members who are there to help each other without expecting any return.

People share their experiences to help others to cope with their life problems. They together discover strategies to solve a matter that seems pretty unsolvable.

How Self Help Group Works?


Self help groups can exist on the local level or as part of big organizations. They can be operated informally or at a professional level based on their strategy. Either way, they have the same purpose.

Arrangement of meetings

The members gather in homes, schools, or other centers for a meeting. They usually have a president and a vice president that look after all the matters and decide when and where the next meeting would happen.


Often, these groups are also working for a cause to improve social circumstances. So they spread awareness among the members and collect funds to contribute to social services.

Origin Of Self Help Groups

The first self help group was Alcoholic Anonymous, formed in 1935. However, these groups came in trend in the early 1960s due to the Civil Rights Movement. This movement created a sense in people of how powerful they can be if they gather for a common cause.

Then, as time passed, the idea of self help groups for mental health also came into place. And finally, online self help groups started enabling people to share their issues regardless of time, location, and distance.

These days, Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-Steps program are the most renowned self help groups.

Types Of Self Help Groups

There are almost all kinds of self help groups for every issue and concern. But they operate based on a specific format.

However, these are four basic formats in the list of self help groups:

  • Peer-led groups: Although most of the groups do not have any leaders who have the authority to make decisions, some of the groups have peers. They take part as a member like everyone else but play a role in managing the meetings. These peers are often called presidents of the self-help group.
  • Open-ended groups: Some groups function as open-ended, meaning there is no registration or attendance process. The members can take part whenever they feel like it.
  • Cost-to-attend groups: Often there are no expenses, but the people in management encourage the members to donate funds so the rent of the meeting’s space and the refreshment costs can be paid. These costs are applied to those members who can afford them easily.
  • Online self help groups: Self help groups online are a growing trend from the last decade. There are several online forums, rooms, and platforms for this purpose. Yet, the biggest perk is their 24/7 availability.

Importance Of Self Help Group

A survey of 232 members suggested that self help groups can improve a person’s physical and mental health.

Attending a self help organization contains more benefits like:

1. High Self Esteem

Attending a group can boost your self-esteem and give you self-sufficiency as you start to solve your problems better.

2. Improved Physical Health

The people who are a part of these groups are 50% less likely to be hospitalized than those who don’t. Thus, it is effective for your body’s health as well.

3. Provision Of Social Support

For those who suffer from loneliness, these groups can be a blessing. Especially older people can benefit themselves by being active members of self help groups.

4. Fewer Chances Of Mental Issues

A self-help group acts as a significant source to avoid mental diseases like anxiety, stress, and depression.

How Self Help Groups Are Formed?

A couple of people who want to share their experimental knowledge on a life problem initiates a group. Then, gradually more and more members start coming and being an active part of the group. That’s how a self help group is formed.

However, there are certain things that the group members keep in mind while making a group:

  • Members should be from relatively similar backgrounds.
  • They should be going through the same life situations.
  • The age limit must be the same so all of them can sense belonging to each other.

What Do You Get From Self Help Groups?

If you are a person who likes to share and receive life advice, self help groups can be great for you. But they are not the answer for each person.

These groups are the places where one can express themselves without the fear of being judged. You get an atmosphere of acceptance and concern.

The problems you think nobody can relate to are shared and heard in these groups. Apart from this, some self help groups also focus on the community’s well-being and prosperity.

Where To Register Self Help Group?

Whether small or big, most of the communities have various self help groups related to many problems like mental health, alcohol addiction, productivity, and different diseases.

To find one in your community, you can first check online. The other sources are your phonebook.

Moreover, the best way is to ask your therapist about it. They can let you know about all the help groups near you.

The rest of the work is a breeze. You can simply approach the president of the group and get yourself registered as a member. Keep in mind that self-help groups can exist without registration as well.

What Self Help Group I Should Join?

You may be wondering now which is the best self help group near me. Well, the best are always those where you feel accepted, contribute, and valued. Yet the other criteria that play a big part in making a group the best to join are here:

Linked To Other Groups

In 2003, Clark and Smith’s study suggested that a group that connects with other community groups is more successful.

Regular Members

Join those groups in which members take an active and consistent part.

Friendly Environment

You can attend one to two meetings as a test to check if there is a friendly atmosphere among members or not.

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Final Words:

Self help groups are valuable means for us to learn, grow, and contribute. They provide their participants the opportunities to be more social and listen to those who deserve to be heard. At the same time, you can express yourself in front of people who are not there to judge you.