Abstract

Objectives. An ethnographic study of a peer-developed support group for persons with head injury was conducted to identify helping factors. These factors are the peer group experiences and processes, established theoretically and empirically, that provide support through self-help.

Method. The group comprised 13 members who regularly attended sessions for 16 months. In addition to participant observation, the data included audiotapes and videotapes of the group. The data were subjected to thematic analysis to find patterns in the participants’ experience with regard to group helping factors.

Results. Many of the positive attributes of the group seem similar to processes found in successful peer support groups. These attributes include believing and feeling part of the group because members have a common problem and can validate the effects of the injury by sharing and receiving information in a variety of ways through the group.

Conclusion. Legitimization, the acceptance of the head injury itself as real, appears to be the fundamental concept that distinguishes this group from other problem-focused self-help groups and professionally led groups.

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