A meta-analysis of self-help group effectiveness

Edward Matthew Franzoni, Fordham University


The number of self-help groups, which involve millions of participants annually, continues to grow. Estimates indicate that the number of self-help group members may equal the number of individuals receiving psychotherapy. Although self-help groups are widely used and may offer an economical alternative to professional treatment, questions remain concerning their effectiveness.^ The purpose of this study was to determine self-help group effectiveness through a meta-analytic review of the primary research. This statistical procedure was used to compare self-help group effectiveness to that of professionally led, normative, and control groups. In addition, this study investigated group type and source of support to determine their influence on self-help group effectiveness.^ Thirty-three studies identified through a comprehensive literature search formed the sample. Each study was coded on three factors: (a) the contrast group, (b) the self-help group type, and (c) the self-help groups' source of support. Effect sizes were calculated for each study and averaged to provide an indication of self-help group effectiveness. Analysis of variance was performed for both group type and source of support. Cluster analysis was used post hoc to identify similarities between studies.^ The results indicate that self-help groups compare favorably to both professionally led and normative groups. Additionally, self-help groups were found to outperform control groups on a variety of measures represented in the study sample. The analysis of variance for group type, which was nonsignificant, suggests that the different self-help group types are similarly effective. The analysis of variance for source of support, which was also nonsignificant, suggests that fears of professional co-optation of self-help groups are unfounded and that professional support should be limited to unaffiliated self-help groups. Cluster analysis did not yield additional information on factors related to self-help group effectiveness.^ This study strongly suggests that self-help groups are effective and that they offer a viable alternative to professional treatment. These findings point to the need for increased professional as well as public awareness of the self-help group intervention. Based on the results of this study, mental health professionals should endorse the use of self-help groups and their continued study. ^

Subject Area

Social psychology|Educational psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Franzoni, Edward Matthew, "A meta-analysis of self-help group effectiveness" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9304513.