Mutual aid groups in psychiatry and substance misuse

Alexander Mario Baldacchino, Woody Caan, Carol Munn-Giddings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mutuality is a feature of many ‘self-help groups’ for people with mental health and/or substance misuse needs. These groups are diverse in terms of membership, aims, organisation and resources. Collectively, in terms of the pathways for seeking help, support, social capital or simply validation as people, mutual aid groups figure at some time in the life story of many psychiatric and/or substance misuse patients. From the viewpoint of clinical services, relations with such groups range from formal collaboration, through incidental shared care, via indifference, to incomprehension, suspicion, or even hostility. How should mental health and substance misuse clinicians relate to this informal care sector, in practice?
Aims: To synthesise knowledge about three aspects of the relationship between psychiatric/substance misuse services and mutual aid groups: profile groups' engagement of people with mental health and/or substance misuse needs at all stages of vulnerability, illness or recovery; characterise patterns of health benefit or harm to patients, where such outcome evidence exists; identify features of mutual aid groups that distinguish them from clinical services.
Method: A search of both published and unpublished literature with a focus on reports of psychiatric and substance misuse referral routes and outcomes, compiled for meta-synthesis.
Results: Negative outcomes were found occasionally, but in general mutual aid group membership was repeatedly associated with positive benefits.
Conclusions: Greater awareness of this resource for mental health and substance misuse fields could enhance practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-117
Number of pages14
JournalMental Health and Substance Use: Dual Diagnosis
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


Dive into the research topics of 'Mutual aid groups in psychiatry and substance misuse'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this