SUPPORT GROUPS - IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?
Self Help Groups are run by patients (i.e., Alcoholics Anonymous) with little professional (i.e.,mental health) input. These groups sole function is to educate and for the members to provide peer support. They are not necessarily directive in any way.
Support Groups are run by a mental health professional (i.e., Social Worker, Psychologist, Psychiatrist) and its purpose is to provide guided support. As with the self-help groups, they have an educational component, usually having to do with learning new coping strategies, problem-solving skills, and the like.
Self Help Groups may function autonomously but support groups, by definition, are directed by a mental health professional. It is very important for a mental health professional to be present since emotionally-laden material is often discussed and someone with the appropriate training must be present to help process it. In addition, self-help groups can be held anywhere; support groups are usually held in a medical environment (i.e., hospital, medical office, etc.) because of their inherent therapeutic nature- they are regarded as a form of psychosocial treatment.