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Community members learn to facilitate family support groups

August 9, 2012
by Shannon Brys
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NAMI supports community members with mental health training.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one out of four American adults suffers from a mental health disorder each year.  As the number of people affected by mental illness grows, so does the need for treatment.

James Neal of Enid News, wrote an article about National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)-Oklahoma providing free training services to people in the community who were interested in learning more about group therapy and helping the people in their lives. 

NAMI says that this family support group training is design to teach family members and friends of those suffering from mental illness how to possess coping skills and to successfully facilitate a support group.  The goal is also for these people that attend the training to be able to reach out to other people going through the same thing and to share the skills they’ve learned.

Hopefully the people in Oklahoma will take advantage of this training program and the trend will continue throughout the country.  It would be beneficial for people to have as many resources as possible so they don’t feel like there’s nowhere to turn.

According to NAMI Massachusetts, this Support Group Facilitator Skills Training model is currently being utilized in 37 states. 



Many other family members and mental health consumers learn how to start and run their own mutual help support groups. Usually they learn these skills from leaders of other local self-help (i.e., member-run) support groups of the same type, or at regional or national training workshops. There are also a couple of national SAMHSA-funded technical assistance centers that provide how-to materials and sometimes training. There are even local "self-help group clearinghouses" that often provide such support group development consultation and training for free:

For information on any of hundreds of different national, online, and "model" self-help support groups that address such a wide range of stressful mental health life issues, check out the keyword-searchable online database of the American Self-Help Group Clearinghouse at:

"The time has come for a major conceptual shift...
from viewing lay people as consumers of health care
to seeing them as they really are:
its primary providers."
- Dr. Lowell Levin & Ellen Idler of Yale University, from their book, "The Hidden Health Care System: Mediating Structures and Medicine." (Ballinger Publishing Company, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1981).

“One of the most important capabilities of community self-help groups is that ordinary people can develop such groups in their local communities when none exist, and subsequently their group usually serves as an extraordinary resource to many in that area for several years. I still find it amazing that to start a group, a person doesn't need a grant, an agency, or even an office - just the inspiration and a few other people who share their experience and hope. What significantly helps in providing such inspiration is a person's knowledge of an existing national organization or a model group, which can provide them with basic information so they don't have to ‘re-invent the wheel.’ "
- "Mutual Aid Self-Help Group Developments” Community Psychologist, 39 (3), 2006, p. 21.

Shannon Brys

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