What are Self-Help Programs?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2018
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Individuals who have difficulty coping with disease, mental illness, physical injury, or emotional distress often try to overcome their struggles by implementing self-help programs. There are many different types of self-help programs available, designed to provide people with the motivation and tools they need to conquer the various mental and physical conditions that cause problems in their lives. Individuals often turn to self-help books, audio tapes, instructional videos, and online websites designed to promote healthy, happy living. Many psychologists and physicians believe that such programs can be very beneficial to individuals who want to make simple improvements to their quality of life, though they usually recommend that people with chronic or debilitating conditions seek professional help.

The content and layout of self-help programs can vary, though most feature psychology-based, step-by-step tutorials on how to improve the quality of life. A book, video, tape, or website usually begins with an introduction that outlines the basics of the program, defines terms and concepts, and explains the requirements for achieving success. A program might go on to instruct people on meditation techniques, physical tasks, and written or oral exercises that can help them identify and overcome their problems. The publication may also include additional resources and information regarding available clinical help and support groups. The majority of self-help programs have the end goal of helping people realize they have the power to make positive changes in their lives, as long as they have the proper tools and motivation to do so.


Self-help programs may offer very general advice on how to live better and make good decisions, or they may be geared at specific mental or physical conditions. Hundreds of self-help books and tutorials exist to help people manage general issues such as stress, anxiety, a lack of motivation, monetary problems, and obesity. More specialized topics tackled by some programs include alcoholism, clinical depression, schizophrenia, and cancer. An individual who suffers from any mental illness or physical limitation can usually find some kind of self-help resource on his or her condition.

While professionals generally consider self-help to be a valid means of dealing with personal problems, many psychologists believe that individuals with major issues should consult experts before trying to tackle them on their own. The information and instructions in self-help publications cannot replace personal examinations and evaluations by trained doctors and mental health workers. Individuals may be able to combine the tools learned through self-help programs with medications and therapy to pursue meaningful, enjoyable, healthy lifestyles.


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Post 6

I bought some marriage self-help books for my husband and myself. He doesn't want to go to a marriage counselor and I think that this is the next best thing. I hope that it will help.

Post 5

@Rondocuri-- I've never used a self-help program for weight loss but I have used self-help videos for yoga and exercising.

I agree that self-help programs are very motivational. I think that most of us shy away from seeing a doctor about these types of issues. Some of the self-help videos are like having a personal dietitian or trainer at home with you. If one follows these program completely, they can be very helpful.

The downside to self-help programs is that if one doesn't believe in it or if one is not disciplined about following the recommendations, they might not do anything at all. So it kind of depends on the individual.

Post 4

I'm a fan of self-help books. I think that we are the best people to help ourselves. Going to a therapist or a counselor is beneficial too but I think that most of the time with the therapist is spent on explaining ourselves. Only after the therapist gets to know us and our issues, can he or she start helping.

I'd rather try to help myself by changing my way of thinking and trying to be wiser about life. I love self-help books about philosophy and psychology. There are also great self-help books on love. They are especially helpful after a bad relationship or a bad breakup. It's self-therapy and it works.

Post 3

My sister is using a self-help program for weight loss, and she swears by it. She said that while other diets have made her feel stressed about food, the self-help program has helped motivate her to want to lose weight, and has also increased her feelings of self-esteem.

Post 2
@Rundocuri: I would be interested in some input on this subject too. Most diets focus on food, while self-help programs put the emphasis on the individual. But do they work?
Post 1

Does anyone have any thoughts on using a self-help program for weight loss? Like many people, I've tried a wide variety of diet programs with little success. I like the thought of helping myself with positive, motivational thinking.

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