Helping Mutual Help: Managing the Risks of Professional Partnerships

  • Deborah A. Salem
  • Thomas M. Reischl
  • Katie W. Randall


This chapter addresses the recent trend for mutual-help organizations to form collaborative partnerships with professionally run organizations. The focus of the discussion is a multi-method case study of a partnership between Schizophrenics Anonymous (SA) and the Mental Health Association of Michigan (MHAM) over a 14-year period. This study explores how the evolution of a formal partnership between SA and MHAM influenced the organizational expansion and development of SA. The partnership resulted in increased access to SA groups throughout Michigan. It also resulted in changes in how new SA groups were started, with more new groups in traditional mental health service settings and more groups led by professionals. New groups established with professional leaders had significantly lower survival rates than new groups established with consumer leaders. Qualitative analyses of interviews with SA’s consumer leaders suggested that, while SA became a more stable organization, there was an accompanying loss of consumer leadership opportunities, ownership, and control over organizational functions. These results are discussed with regard to the lessons learned for managing mutual-help/professional partnerships. We draw on organizational theories and risk management principles to discuss strategies by which mutual-help organizations can benefit from partnerships with other types of organizations, while minimizing unintended changes to their basic beliefs, processes, and structures.


Professional Organization Group Development Resource Dependency Formal Partnership Professional Involvement 
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.



The authors wish to express our appreciation to Joanne Verbanic, Eric Hufnagel, the Mental Health Association in Michigan, The National Schizophrenia Foundation, and the leaders and members of SA who contributed to this study. We would also like to thank Fiona Gallacher who assisted in data collection and Doug Luke for assistance with data analysis. This research was supported in part by a grant from the Ethel and James Flinn Family Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah A. Salem
    • 1
  • Thomas M. Reischl
    • 2
  • Katie W. Randall
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Health Behavior & Health EducationUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Prevention Research Center of MichiganUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Washington State Department of Social and Health ServicesOlympiaUSA

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