Self-Help Group

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People grow in interaction with many systems, such as school systems, neighborhood systems, and extended family systems. These systems offer a needed source of social support. Social support systems are continuing social aggregates that provide individuals with opportunities for feedback about themselves and for validations for their expectations about others, which may offset deficiencies in these communications within the larger community context (Ashford, Lecroy, & Lortie, 2001). Social support systems can be classified into five different types: self-help groups, social networks, natural helpers, formal organizations, and formed groups. Self-help groups are different from the other groups because they control their own resources and policies, that is the group is self governing and self regulating. It serves three primary functions to its members: to receive information on how to cope, obtain material help when necessary and lastly feel cared about and supported. Self- help groups are fundamentally based on the idea that people with like experiences can offer the best information regarding these three functions. Self-help groups are becoming increasingly popular, and participants are able to express their feelings and receive emotional support from people who share their experiences. Being in a group with people who relate to your experiences not only allows people gain confidence, it gives them a feeling that they can take action to solve their own problems. Self-help groups for disorders are a way of empowering people to help themselves, and others, on the path to recovery. Participation in a self-help group can end the painful isolation of suffering alone with a disorder that is disruptive and debilitating for the individual and those people around him/her. An effective group should help members achieve recovery through mutual support as well as provide them with updated information about causes and treatment. It also provides a clear structure, in that there is a self-determined behavioral routine that members follow, and can be critical when your life is literally turned upside down. In a sense it provides a mechanism to focus one's energy. In this experiential exercise, I decided to attend an Overeaters anonymous (OA) self-help group meeting, which is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength, and hope, are recovering from compulsive overeating. Their primary purpose is to abstain from compulsive overeating and to carry this message of recovery to those who suffer. There are no dues or fees for members; they are self-supporting through members' contributions. OA is not affiliated with any public or private organization, political movement, ideology or religious doctrine. The Twelve Steps are the heart of the OA recovery program; it originated in Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps offer members a new way of life enabling a compulsive overeater to live without the need for excess food. The meeting was held in a large room in a church, with the 16 members facing the group facilitator (who was a non-professional who was struggling with similar issues as members of the group). The membership of the group was varied, both in its makeup and in the eating behaviors and experiences which brought them there. The meeting was somewhat formally organized, using a basic structure and philosophy as a model the meeting was called to order by the leader, and she preceded with the serenity prayer which followed by a formal statement of the group's purpose. There was then an introduction of Members in which each member introduced himself/herself and stated their reason for joining the group. During the introduction, members identified themselves by their names and by their disorder. There was then a discussion and information sharing centered on gratitude and abstinence, beginning with the speaker telling her own personal story and other members sharing their own personal experiences. During the next...
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