Dialogic sharing of lived experience in different self-help/mutual aid groups





This article is based on a recent re-visiting of published data related to the ‘sharing’ processes between members of two strikingly different types of self-help/mutual aid groups (SHMAGs) run by and for peers who share the same situation.    Data from taped meetings and observations with a stress-coping Carers’ groups is compared with observational data from an identity changing Alcoholics Anonymous group and discussed in relation to Bohm’s (1987, 1996/2013) concept of dialogue as an alternative communication process that facilitates inquiry and the accumulation of knowledge. Groups were at extreme opposites in terms of their expected goals, strategies of help, and organisational characteristics yet unexpected similarities were found in relation to the authority of sharing lived experience which was in both cases respectful, supportive and non-judgemental. Group members did not openly disagree with each other but expressed a difference in opinion by the juxtaposing of a personal story which suggested an alternative way of doing or viewing things.

    The paper contributes to our knowledge of how sharing lived experience can be a key similarity between strikingly different SHMAGs.  The paper also contributes to our understanding of the usefulness of dialogue as an explanatory framework for viewing SHMAGs as collective learning enterprises.

Keywords (up to 6): self-help/mutual aid groups, lived experience, dialogue, collective learning, sharing stories

Author Biographies

Carol Diane Munn-Giddings, Anglia Ruskin University

Professor of Participative Inquiry and Collaborative Practices

Thomasina Borkman, George Mason University

Professor of Sociology (Emeritus)


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How to Cite

Munn-Giddings, C. D., & Borkman, T. (2019). Dialogic sharing of lived experience in different self-help/mutual aid groups. Groupwork, 27(3), 26-46. https://doi.org/10.1921/gpwk.v27i3.1152