Introduction to Mental Health Self-Help

  • Louis D. Brown
  • Scott Wituk


Mental health self-help (MHSH) refers to any mutual support-oriented initiative directed by people with mental illness or their family members. These initiatives have become increasingly widespread over the years and today MHSH initiatives outnumber traditional mental health organizations in the United States (Goldstrom et al., 2006). The goal of this book is to provide research-based insight into the development of effective MHSH initiatives. This chapter explores the defining characteristics of MHSH and reviews its historical development. Building on this foundation, the chapter examines several factors contributing to the growth and popularity of MHSH, along with an exploration of factors impeding the use of MHSH. Following is a discussion of future directions for research and practice. Finally, the chapter provides a summary of the topics covered by each subsequent chapter.


Mental Health Mental Illness Mental Health Problem Family Caregiver Mental Health System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Brown, L. D. (2009). Making it sane: Using life history narratives to explore theory in a mental health consumer-run organization. Qualitative Health Research, 19, 243–257.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brown, L. D., Shepherd, M. D., Wituk, S. A., & Meissen, G. (2007). Goal achievement and the accountability of consumer-run organizations. Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, 34, 73–82.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, L. D., Shepherd, M. D., Wituk, S. A., & Meissen, G. (2007). How settings change people: Applying behavior setting theory to consumer-run organizations. Journal of Community Psychology, 35, 399–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burti, L., Amaddeo, F., Ambrosi, M., Bonetto, C., Cristofalo, D., Ruggeri, M., et al. (2005). Does additional care provided by a consumer self-help group improve psychiatric outcome? A study in an Italian community-based psychiatric service. Community Mental Health Journal, 41(6), 705–720.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carling, P. J. (1995). Return to community: Building support systems for people with psychiatric disabilities. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  6. Chamberlin, J. (1990). The ex-patients’ movement: Where we’ve been and where we’re going. Journal of Mind and Behavior, 11, 323–336.Google Scholar
  7. Chamberlin, J., Rogers, E. S., & Ellison, M. L. (1996). Self-help programs: A description of their characteristics and their members. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 19(3), 33–42.Google Scholar
  8. Chien, W.-T., Norman, I., & Thompson, D. R. (2006). Perceived benefits and difficulties experienced in a mutual support group for family carers of people with schizophrenia. Qualitative Health Research, 16(7), 962–981.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clay, S. (2005). About us: What we have in common. In S. Clay (Ed.), On our own, together: Peer programs for people with mental illness. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Constantino, V., & Nelson, G. (1995). Changing relationships between self-help groups and mental health professionals: Shifting ideology and power. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 14(2), 55–70.Google Scholar
  11. Corrigan, P. W., Slopen, N., Gracia, G., Phelan, S., Keogh, C. B., & Keck, L. (2005). Some recovery processes in mutual-help groups for persons with mental illness; II: Qualitative analysis of participant interviews. Community Mental Health Journal, 41(6), 721–735.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goldstrom, I. D., Campbell, J., Rogers, J. A., Lambert, D. B., Blacklow, B., Henderson, M. J., et al. (2006). National estimates for mental health mutual support groups, self-help organizations, and consumer-operated services. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 33, 92–103.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Humphreys, K. (2004). Circles of recovery: Self-help organizations for addictions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Kelly, T. B., Salmon, R., & Graziano, R. (2004). Mutual aid groups for older persons with a mental illness. In R. Salmon & R. Graziano (Eds.), Group work and aging: Issues in practice, research, and education. (pp. 111–126). Haworth Social Work Practice Press, Binghamton, NY.Google Scholar
  15. Kimura, M., Mukaiyachi, I., & Ito, E. (2002). The House of Bethel and consumer-run businesses: An innovative approach to psychiatric rehabilitation. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 21(2), 69–77.Google Scholar
  16. Meissen, G. J., Gleason, D. F., & Embree, M. G. (1991). An assessment of the needs of mutual-help groups. American Journal of Community Psychology, 19, 427–442.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Milofsky, C. (1988). Community organizations: Studies in resource mobilization and exchange. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Mohr, W. K. (2004). Surfacing the life phases of a mental health support group. Qualitative Health Research, 14, 61–77.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mowbray, C. T., Greenfield, A., & Freddolino, P. P. (1992). An analysis of treatment services provided in group homes for adults labeled mentally ill. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 180, 551–559.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mowbray, C. T., Robinson, E. A., & Holter, M. C. (2002). Consumer drop-in centers: Operations, services, and consumer involvement. Health and Social Work, 27, 248–261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Nelson, G., Lord, J., & Ochocka, J. (2001). Shifting the paradigm in community mental health: Towards empowerment and community. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  22. Nelson, G., Walsh-Bowers, R., & Hall, G. B. (1998). Housing for psychiatric survivors: Values, policy, and research. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, 25, 55–62.Google Scholar
  23. Norcross, J. C. (2000). Here comes the self-help revolution in mental heath. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 37(4), 370–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Powell, T. J., Hill, E. M., Warner, L., Yeaton, W., & Silk, K. R. (2000). Encouraging people with mood disorders to attend a self-help group. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30, 2270–2288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Recovery International. (2009). History of Recovery International. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from www.recovery-
  26. Sabin, J. E., & Daniels, N. (2003). Managed care: Strengthening the consumer voice in managed care: VII. The Georgia peer specialist program. Psychiatric Services, 54(4), 497–498.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Salzer, M. S., & Shear, S. L. (2002). Identifying consumer-provider benefits in evaluations of consumer-delivered services. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 25(3), 281–288.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Segal, S. P., & Silverman, C. (2002). Determinants of client outcomes in self-help agencies. Psychiatric Services, 53, 304–309.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sherman, S. R., Frenkel, E. R., & Newman, E. S. (1986). Community participation of mentally ill adults in foster family care. Journal of Community Psychology, 14, 120–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sisson, R. W., & Mallams, J. H. (1981). The use of systematic encouragement and community access procedures to increase attendance at Alcoholic Anonymous and Al-Anon meetings. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 8, 371–376.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Smith, D. H. (2000). Grassroots associations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  32. Solomon, P. (2004). Peer support/peer provided services: Underlying processes, benefits, and critical ingredients. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 27, 392–401.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Swarbrick, M. (2007). Consumer-operated self-help centers. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 31, 76–79.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Veterans Health Administration. (2004). VA Mental Health Strategic Plan. Washington, DC: Office of Mental Health Services.Google Scholar
  35. Wuthnow, R. (1994). Sharing the journey: Support groups and America’s new quest for community. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louis D. Brown
    • 1
  • Scott Wituk
    • 2
  1. 1.Prevention Research CenterThe Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA
  2. 2.Center for Community Support and ResearchWichita State UniversityWichitaUSA

Personalised recommendations