This chapter summarizes the literature from a systematic search and assesses the evidence on the effectiveness and therapeutic ingredients of mutual support groups for helping family caregivers of people with severe mental health problems. This review used a combined free-text and thesaurus approach to search relevant research articles within major electronic databases and System for Info on gray literature for the period 1988-2008 and reference lists of all retrieved literature. Twelve research studies were selected for inclusion in the analysis on the basis that they were family-led support group programs for caregivers of people with severe mental health problems. Many studies reported different benefits of group participation such as increasing knowledge about the illness and enhancing coping ability and social support. However, there is little evidence supporting the significant long-term positive effects of mutual support groups on families' and consumers' psychosocial health conditions except illness relapse. Qualitative studies identified four potential therapeutic mechanisms of family mutual support groups. The authors also discuss lessons learned from development of and evaluation on family-led support groups including the major principles in establishing and strengthening a support group, barriers to its development and families who are likely to attend and benefit from group participation.
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