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What is Self-Help?

The term “self-help” was first used in North America during the 1930’s. It is used to describe a process of giving and receiving peer support and information.

A self-help group (also known as a peer-led or peer support group) is a free-of-charge service that is voluntary (you have to want to be there), ongoing (it can continue as long as the members want). Self-help groups are led by people who share the same issue or experience. The leaders are regular people: volunteers, survivors, seniors, youths, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends – people whose only qualification is personal experience of an issue.

Self-help groups are not therapy groups. The primary focus of self-help is emotional support, practical support, and informational exchange. Members get together either in person, over the phone, or on the Internet. They talk. They share information. They create hope. Self-help involves getting help, giving help, and learning to help yourself.

What are the Benefits of Self-Help?

Many people say the biggest benefit for them is the social support. Participating in a self-help group offers relief from isolation because of the support offered by others who truly understand. Attending a self-help group reinforces that you are not alone and that others are experiencing similar struggles and hardships to you. Self-help groups normalize our experience. By sharing with people who have been there, you also have the benefit of seeing positive role models – individuals who show that coping and recovery is possible. Their example and actions often provide needed encouragement and hope.

For other people, the benefit of self-help groups is the education and practical information they receive. Discussing their shared challenge or issue and learning about how to cope, what services and resources are available, alternative care, and self-care techniques, helps people to realize that they are not helpless.

Many people describe their experience with self-help groups to be very empowering. The relationships formed in the group give them hope for the future. And the tools they learned in the group helped them to gain strength and control in their situation.

What Happens at a Self-Help Group? Who Goes to a Group?

Each self-help group is different and what happens at the meetings is determined by the leaders and participants. Some groups use programs and materials, others bring in guest speakers, and many use informal discussions to encourage the group to share and support one another.

Self-help groups are confidential. What is said in the group, stays in the group.

Self-help groups tend to be small enough that you can share if you want to but also large enough that if you choose to sit and listen, you won’t be sitting in silence.

Self-help groups are formed around certain struggles, situations, or concerns. Anyone who has experienced that focus can attend the group. Most of the groups are a mixture of men and women, including people of all ages, unless otherwise specified.

How Do I Find A Group?

The Canadian Mental Health Association, PEI Division (CMHA) is a hub for self-help groups. We believe that sharing with people who understand us and who inspire hope, as well as offering support to others, is beneficial to our mental health. For that reason, CMHA keeps a record of self-help and support groups that meet in Prince Edward Island.


Please note that CMHA has made every effort to keep this information accurate and up-to-date. However, it is a group’s responsibility to update CMHA staff regarding changes to their group. CMHA encourages any interested individual to contact the group leaders to confirm.  Please call 902-628-3666, toll free 1-800-682-1648, or email [email protected]. if there is a change to your group’s information or if you have a self-help or support group that you would like to add to the group listing.