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Self-help Groups and Treatment Groups Comparison Compare and Contrast Essay

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Updated: Dec 19th, 2019

Self-Help Group

A self-help group consists of people with similar problems, who wish to provide mutual support for each other. Self-help groups share a common problem in the sense that they suffer from a psychological or physical condition. The condition might be a result of a disease or a human condition. The main aim of the self-help group is to achieve common goals.

For instance, the main aim of an addicted group is to recover fully from drug addiction whereas the aim of a group suffering from a disease is to heal. Self-help groups emerged in the modern society to replace the nature of cooperation witnessed in the traditional society. In other words, traditional societies cared for the sick and the physically challenged in society.

However, the case is different in the modern society. Self-help groups have replaced the traditional care provided to the disabled and other special groups in the modern society.

Social change and mobility are two aspects that have disrupted the family unit in the modern society. It is not surprising to find a family member being taken to a care home yet family members are available. In the care homes, those with similar problems join hands to air their views (Miquez, Vazquez, & Becona, 2002).

Treatment Group

On the other hand, treatment groups are clinical in nature meaning that they are used as control groups in experiments. Those suffering from a particular problem are taken to a safe place whereby they can access basic needs such as food, medication, water, housing, and care. They are very different from self-help groups because they have no control over policy formulation.

They simply follow the laid down regulations and rules. In the society, some groups are vulnerable than others implying that social institutions have the responsibility of ensuring that they protect the weak. For instance, those suffering from serious diseases such as HIV/AIDS might be isolated because of their health conditions. Such a group might not access basic needs because their families discriminate against them.

The researcher might be interested in knowing their plight. In this regard, the facilitator may want to establish some of the reasons why they are discriminated. Moreover, the facilitator might be interested in identifying the consequences of discrimination on minorities. In this case, the treatment group is used as a sample because the researcher will be interested in testing some variables.

Through the research, the affected stand to benefit because their solutions to their problems would be provided. However, they do not have any power and authority over their own groups. Since problems are ever increasing in the modern society, the researcher is always faced with the challenge of ensuring that he or she comes up with valid results, which could be tested empirically.

In this sense, the researcher decides to use some individuals as specimens in the laboratory. Those under laboratory test are referred to as the control group or the treatment group.

The treatment group is not much different from the self-help group because members of both groups suffer from certain problems. The major difference is that self-help groups have authority over their groups yet treatment groups have no power over their own lives (Biscof, 2002).


There are various differences between self-help groups and treatment groups. However, the two groups share several aspects. In the treatment group, the researcher or the facilitator has a great responsibility over the behavior of the individual members. The person who took the group member to a group determines the social welfare of the individual group member.

Therefore, the individual cannot claim to be independent meaning that his or her decision is not considered whenever the project is over. The results of the group or the goals of the group do not benefit individual members, but instead they benefit all individuals with similar conditions or problems. In the contrary, self-help groups come up with policies that aim at benefiting individual members.

This means that the group member is responsible for his or her own welfare in society. In some instances, the group might be too large to an extent that it does not benefit the individual member. Under such scenarios, the individual group member has the right to seek external treatment. This is not the case in the treatment group because group members have no rights to make their own decisions.

Another difference is that treatment groups do not provide much help to individual group members as compared to self-help groups. Under treatment groups, members can only expect help through active participation and constructive contribution. However, members are allowed to go through the information provided by other group members.

Through this, they are in position to identify the causes of their conditions or problems. In this case, communication among group members plays a critical role in enhancing participation. In the self-help support groups, members benefit a lot because they can access information and participate in policy formulation. Moreover, they can take part in strategy application.

In other words, each member has a role to play in the self-help support groups. Members are encouraged to come up with strategies that would enhance awareness among other members. Peer support is guaranteed in self-help groups, unlike in the treatment groups whereby support depends on the willingness of the facilitator to cooperate (Nims, 1998).

The main aim of the self-help support groups is to convene the needs of members through consultation and participation. Treatment groups have different aims because people who do not have similar problems as those of the group members control them. This implies that the main aim of treatment groups is to come up with general solutions to problems affecting members.

For instance, the group might focus on eradicating stigmatization among people living with aids yet it does not have the aim of improving their standards of living. This means that their aim is narrow focused, unlike the self-help groups, which have the aim of solving all problems affecting group members.

The self-help groups are not limited to particular themes. Furthermore, information obtained by the facilitator or the researcher under the treatment groups is sacred and confidential. The facilitator rarely conveys the information to individual members. The case is different in the self-help group because information sharing is highly encouraged.

Systems Theory

Systems theory is one of the theories that explain the formation of groups in counseling. Tubbs, who noted that groups develop in four major stages, created the systems theory. Tubbs noted that the first stage is orientation, which is a critical stage in development of groups. At this stage, the scholar noted that members know each other and they start negotiating as regards to the common problem affecting them.

Before they proceed to the next stage, members conduct a SWOT analysis to establish their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Each group in society has strengths, as well as opportunities. In case the group is to develop well, it must identify the available opportunities before proceeding to figure out the threats. The second stage is referred to as the conflict stage.

At this stage, members are conflicts because of conflicting interests. Scholars note that conflicts play a critical role in the development of the group. Through conflicts, a group is able to evaluate each other’s ideas and viewpoints.

Members will argue until they come up with priorities. Without conflicts, members cannot differentiate between conformity and behavior regulation. Conflicts allow members to keep off from groupthink (Cohen, & Levite, 2012).

The third stage pertains to consensus whereby members agree to end conflicts and come up with strategies that will help them to achieve their goals in society. It is a stage whereby members are encouraged to compromise in order to benefit the group. In this regard, members will be forced to select ideas and agree on some of the contentious issues.

Arriving at a consensus is the most difficult part of any group development process because some members might be unwilling to back down their views. Group members are encouraged to seek the services of experts whenever they experience a problem at this stage.

Finally, systems theory suggests that the last stage of group development is the closure stage. At the closure stage, the final decision is announced to all members. Group members are expected to show their support by confirming that they support the resolutions.


Biscof, G. (2002). Remission from alcohol dependence without help: How restrictive should our definition of treatment be? Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 63(2), 229-236.

Cohen, O., & Levite, Z. (2012). High-conflict divorced couples: combining systemic and psychodynamic perspectives. Journal of Family Therapy, 34(4), 387-402.

Miquez, M. C., Vazquez, F. L., & Becona, E. (2002). Effectiveness of telephone contact as an adjunct to a self-help program for smoking cessation: A randomized controlled trial in Spanish smokers. Addictive Behaviors, 27(1), 139-144.

Nims, D. R. (1998). Searching for self: A theoretical model for applying family systems to adolescent group work. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 23(2), 133-144.

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