Self-help work in Norway 2013

Sist endret:

National Report written for the European Expert Meeting for Self-Help in Firenze, 2013

Self-help Norway is a National resource center for Self-help

The Directorate of Health and Social Affairs (now called Norwegian directorate of health) did in 2004 launch the “National Plan for Self-help” as part of the Escalation Plan for Mental Health (1999-2008). This National Plan for Self-Help has evolved through a long and complex process, which started with the work done by the Norwegian Self-Help Forum (NSF), helped by various external contributors. Among the initiatives is the establishment of a resource center for self-help, later named Self-help Norway, which is run by Norsk selvhjelpsforum (NSF).

In The Public Health Report (Report No. 16 to the Parliament, 2002/2003), the objective of the plan is to make self-help available to more people, to promote systematic method development and knowledge about self-help.  The vision is that all people in Norway shall have knowledge of self-help so it can be used when life problems occur.

Self-Help Norway, The National resource center

The National resource center is tied to a body/institution based on experienced knowledge from the self-help field (NSF).

Self-Help Norway intend and work to ensure:

  • that information about self-help (opportunities) is made available to the population in general
  • that more people make use of the opportunity for self-help
  • that a network and permanent structures are established
  • exchange of knowledge about self-help
  • development and acquisition of empirical knowledge
  • that the self-help work is further developed and that the development work is givenan official authorization

Norway is a elongated country with a lot of small places and cities. With the head quarter in Oslo, south of Norway, it is challenging to reach people all over the country. In the period of 2010-2012 we established 7 regional offices with one employee in each office. This makes is easier and more efficient (and possible) to distribute knowledge and information, arrange courses and seminars and meet people where they actually live. We have experienced that this strengthens our position and increases activities in new areas.

Local meeting points

The National resource center for Self-Help is financed by The Directorate of Health. Local meeting points are owned and funded by local authorities. They are not a part of Self Help Norway. These are small offices which support people that want to start a self-organized self-help group. They also do information-work in their area. I addition to the local meeting point there are 3 clearing houses in Norway (LINK).  Self-help Norway's regional offices support the local meeting points with information, knowledge and experience about self-help.

Self-help groups - developing tendencies

In Norway we have at least two different types of self-help groups:

  • traditional self-help groups for people with specific diagnoses such as anxiety, eating disorders, cancer, diabetics, addiction, weight-problems etc.
  • neutral groups, where the participants have different problems within the same group, but share the same motivation to create change

It might be difficult to see how neutral groups can function and how it can be useful for the participants, but experiences from groups in LINK Oslo show they do. Experiences conducted over several years show that participants in these neutral groups tend to focus more on how to deal with their life problems than why. These groups also have fewer stigmas. It’s easier to start new groups in rural areas since the participants don’t need to have the exact same problem. You can join a group even if your problem has no name. It is sufficient to have a sense and experience of a difficult every-day life that you feel is necessary to deal with. In this way the participation in a self-help group can be a preventive activity. It makes it possible for a person to handle a problem in an early stage.

Self-help – a way of thinking – and an important part of the public health

In Norway self-help not only represents self-help groups but also a way of thinking. This means that the tools of self-help can be used in our everyday life: at home, at school, at work as well as inside the self-help groups.

There are very few clear limitations with regard to which groups can benefit from self-help, and it is an important part of public health work. In the new The Public Health Report (Report No. 34 to the Parliament, 2012/2013), have focus on self-help and describes self-help as a part of the work with public health.

The authorizing of self-help in the public health policy makes the information work easier and makes the self-help philosophy and knowledge a part of new networks.

A revised National Plan for Self-help will be launched the autumn 2013. This new plan is based on the experiences done in the period 2006-2012.