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

Psychology|Social psychology|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

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