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Empowerment and Self-help Agency Practice for People with Mental Disabilities


During the past 15 years, there has been tremendous growth in the number of self-help groups and agencies for mental health clients. This article examines the self-help perspective in relation to problems with traditional mental health services and the need for client-run services. Self-help agencies see their goal as empowerment on an individual, organizational, and societal level. They strive to accomplish this by helping members obtain needed resources and develop coping skills; providing means of enhancing members' self-concept and lessening the stigma of perceived mental disability; giving members control in the agencies' governance, administration, and service delivery; and furthering member involvement in social policy-making. The goal of this article is not to endorse the self-help perspective but to use it as the basis for raising research questions that will further the mental health practitioner's understanding of this service modality.

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