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What Is Guided Self-Help?

By D. Nelson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Guided self-help describes an approach to therapy in which a patient is put in charge of his or her own treatment. In traditional therapy models, it is common for a counselor or therapist to guide a patient, helping him or her to realize certain behaviors and locate roots of these behaviors. When individuals perform guided self-help, however, they meet with professionals less often and are responsible for tracking their behaviors and reporting them to designated professionals.

Guided self-help may be most common for people who suffer from eating disorders, particularly binge eating. Binge eating is a disorder in which individuals eat large amounts in short periods of time. Feelings of guilt and shame often accompany this behavior. Many specialists believe that binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the world, although in some primary psychological texts, it is not listed as a distinct disorder.

When patients receive guided self-help for binge eating or other eating disorders, they might meet with professionals more frequently at first to make a treatment plan. The number of times patients meet with professionals during self-help treatment depends largely on the needs and comfort levels of patients. In most cases, however, professionals strive to enable patients to monitor themselves without frequent sessions.

Guided self-help patients often keep journals in which they write down their behaviors and emotions. When patients do meet with professionals, they are encouraged to discuss their feelings and progress they believe they have made. If guided self-help therapy is successful, patients become better able to monitor and control their habits.

This kind of therapy can be used by individuals who suffer from stress and anxiety disorders. Patients might be encouraged to fill out workbooks in which they make note of events and thoughts that trigger anxiety. They might also write about progress they have made using coping mechanisms discussed with professionals.

While it is true that guided self-therapy is a treatment in which patients are not as reliant on professionals, it is misleading to believe that individuals can perform the treatment by themselves. People who suffer from serious eating disorders, for example, often need guidance greater than that found in common books and inspirational recordings in order to understand the depths of their problems. Professionals who specialize in guided self-help aim to set patients on the road to self-reliance and provide support.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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