Dangers of Self Help Groups

How to Protect Yourself against Bad Self-Help – Maia Szalavitz – Scientific America


I came across this article in Scientific America and thought some of you may find it interesting. I think there are good and bad sides to self-help programs and sometimes people take the advice given in them, over that from medical professionals. On the other hand they can help lead the way to a healthy lifestyle, but I really think you need to be careful if you get involved.

Scientific America

I mentioned NLP in an earlier post and said that the Mckenna books had helped me and got a bit of criticism  for that. NLP certainly falls into the self-help category and most book shops carry a lot of these type of books. Some of the advice can help, but there is also the danger that quite unstable people become practitioners who are evangelical about the method and recommend it over psychoanalysis etc. This type of thing  happens in certain AA groups that are anti medication etc.  AA says that is not the official line somewhere in its literature but peer pressure often takes over in meetings.

There is of course a good side to self-help books. they are easily accessed these days  from places such as Amazon and can help people find an insight into their problems. “Recover” by Stanton Peele and Ilse Thompson could be considered a self-help book, that includes ideas such as starting mindfulness, but this book is written in a responsible manner and they talk about getting proper medical help in certain circumstances, (and the dangers of self-help ideas in AA).  I think some of the NLP books have  great techniques that are similar to CBT and would be taken more seriously if the originators had no attacked conventional therapy at the start. NLP and AA have turned into pyramid type organisations with many Evangelical followers spreading the word.

Anyway, I thought the article in Scientific America was well-balanced and made me think about a few things. There are often some good pieces in there about how the brain works so it is worth having a look at from time to time.




Commenting area

  1. Evangelical practitioner? Yes, I do believe I experienced a couple of those while in the program. I learned the hard way to never mention that your taking pain pills while recovering from surgery when a women asked me in a small women’s only meeting how I was doing after my surgery. I made the mistake of mentioning the pain medicine was helping some. Then came the fireworks! This lady went ballistic on me! I was condemned by her for such action, told I needed to stop and reestablish tonight, as I was not sober. She shared her story of how she managed to have a tooth removal without any pain medicine so I should be able to withstand the pain from my surgery regardless of how bad it hurts. I eventually told her she was out of line and told the conversation was over. She agreed in disgust as every women in the meeting was now witnessing our exchange. I took my pills as prescribed and only as long as I needed them and I believe I had a much better recovery from my surgery as a result.

  2. I think that the anti pain medication brigade still have influence in many 12 step groups and I put a couple of links on an early post here https://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/medication/
    There was one idiot with over 20 yrs who used to boast about having prostrate cancer operations without anaesthetic during meetings. He used to give financial advice out to people he felt were well off after getting their trust in AA. It looked like a pyramid scheme and was not legal in the UK as it was about not paying tax.
    I also know another idiot who has dental treatment without any injections. People have to use some common sense within these groups, but unfortunately some people with large influence within groups are cranks that are more interested in dogma.

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