A self-help network usually defines a group of people with similar concerns who offer support and advice to improve lives. They may share self-help books and techniques for coping with illness or emotional problems in an informal setting. Most self-help networks are affordable and accessible, with online communities offering support 24 hours a day.
In some areas, a self-help network can be found for a wide variety of issues, including addiction, bereavement, domestic violence, and health issues. People using these groups share common experiences to help each other overcome emotional or physical problems. Members typically lead meetings using personal experience in this type of self-help network.
Some people seek a particular self-help network for specific issues. Groups exist for military veterans, the elderly, single parents, and some ethnic groups. These networks might advocate changes in legislation to improve services in areas of concern. Research information might be shared and public education programs developed by this type of self-help network.
Perhaps the best-known self-help network is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which offers a 12-step program to help people deal with addiction. The AA concept evolved into Narcotics Anonymous programs and even specialized Cocaine Anonymous meetings in some regions. Other self-help networks adopted the concept of steps to deal with addictions, such as gambling, overeating, and smoking.
The Internet represents another type of self-help network. Some self-help sites employ moderators to control the content, while others are run by members. Online support groups typically offer complete anonymity at very little cost. They are also accessible any time someone needs support. Some radio call-in shows offer a self-help network where an expert might offer advice.
Self-help books serve as tools for some people when they find a publication that addresses a specific problem. These books might inspire a change in behavior or a different perspective on life. A self-help book might outline a plan for change with precise steps, or use personal experiences of others to illustrate overcoming adversity.
Some people use self-help networks in addition to formal mental health therapy. These networks are available in most developed countries where the cost of mental health services is considered high. A network might offer a sense of community and ease feelings of isolation. Most networks focus on improving self-esteem as a person works through problems.