HSCO 511 Mental Health Support Group Paper Example (Alcohol Anonymous)

HSCO 511 Mental Health Support Group Paper Example (Alcohol Anonymous)Assignment Brief: HSCO 511 Mental Health Support Group Paper (Alcohol Anonymous)

Assignment Overview:

The purpose of this assignment is to provide students with an opportunity to attend four Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) support group meetings and subsequently reflect upon and analyze their observations. Students are expected to evaluate group member and leader behaviors, group dynamics, meeting content, and processes. Furthermore, students will critically assess how these observations align with best practices and principles in group counseling and support groups as learned in the HSCO 511 course.

Understanding Assignment Objectives:

By completing this assignment, students are expected to achieve the following objectives:

  • Observation and Analysis: Attend four Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) support group meetings and actively observe group member interactions, leader behaviors, group dynamics, meeting content, and processes. Take detailed notes during each meeting to gather data for analysis.
  • Critical Thinking: Apply critical thinking skills to evaluate the observed behaviors, dynamics, and content within the context of best practices and principles for group counseling and support groups learned in the HSCO 511 course.
  • Literature-Supported Analysis: Incorporate relevant literature and course material to support your analysis. Cite academic sources to substantiate your observations and align them with established counseling and support group guidelines.
  • Personal Application: Reflect on your own experiences attending the AA support group meetings and consider how these experiences might influence your future work in mental health support or counseling roles.

The Student’s Role:

As a student, your role in this assignment is multifaceted:

  • Attendance and Observation: Attend a minimum of four Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) support group meetings. Actively observe and take detailed notes regarding group dynamics, leader behaviors, meeting content, and processes during these meetings.
  • Critical Analysis: Apply critical thinking skills to analyze and evaluate the observed behaviors and dynamics. Consider how these align with best practices and principles in group counseling and support groups that you have learned about in the HSCO 511 course.
  • Literature Integration: Incorporate relevant academic literature and course material to support your analysis. Use citations to strengthen your arguments and provide a scholarly foundation for your observations.
  • Reflection: Reflect on your personal experiences attending the AA support group meetings. Consider how these experiences may impact your future work in mental health support or counseling roles. Share insights gained from this reflection.
  • Paper Composition: Compile your findings, analysis, and reflections into a well-structured paper. Ensure that your paper adheres to academic writing standards, including appropriate formatting, citation style, and a clear organization of ideas.


Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a widely recognized 12-step program designed to support individuals who are dealing with alcoholism. Established in 1935, AA serves as a model for numerous self-help and mutual-aid groups (Md. & Saba, 2018). Self-help groups have gained popularity worldwide, with an estimated 750,000 to 1 million such groups in the United States alone, and many more in countries like Canada, Sweden, Mexico, Iceland, Poland, and beyond (Giacomucci, 2018). These groups offer various programs to address issues like drug addiction, sex addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, financial problems, gambling, and dysfunctional relationships (Park & Kim, 2021). AA itself boasts approximately 93,000 chapters globally, involving over 2 million individuals across the highlighted countries. Surveys reveal that more than 13% of Americans have attended a Twelve Step program at some point in their lives, with 5.3% having done so in the past year, indicating the widespread use of self-help programs (Humphreys et al., 2020).

This paper aims to provide an in-depth analysis of observations made during four Alcoholics Anonymous support group meetings, focusing on leader behaviors, group dynamics, group members, meeting content, and processes. These observations will be evaluated in the context of best practices and principles in group counseling and support groups, as learned in the course.

Group Meeting Overview

The AA support group meetings were held at a local community hall and were facilitated by two group leaders, one male and one female. Seven participants attended these meetings, with four being male and three being female. All attendees had a history of alcohol abuse and had either voluntarily joined the group or were recommended to do so by a healthcare facility. The meetings commenced punctually at 10 a.m. and were scheduled to last for three hours.

The two facilitators, Mr. John McKee and Miss Oliver O’Donnell, began the meetings by introducing themselves and extending a warm welcome to the participants. Subsequently, they invited each member to introduce themselves by sharing their name, age, place of residence, and the reason for joining the program. Mr. McKee possesses a master’s degree in psychology and has over five years of experience as a licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC). Miss O’Donnell was enrolled in a doctoral-level Ph.D. program and brought extensive clinical experience in treating Substance Use Disorder and mental health issues. Both leaders had substantial expertise in psychotherapy, the 12-step philosophy, and group-based therapies for substance abuse, particularly among adolescents.

The coordinators initiated the meeting by establishing the ground rules, objectives, goals, and methods. They emphasized the importance of confidentiality during and after the sessions, stressing the need to protect the identities of all group members. Discussions within the meeting were to remain within the confines of the meeting space to maintain the trust and privacy of each participant. The meeting’s objectives included gaining a deeper understanding of each member’s addiction, promoting self-efficacy in managing their problems, and motivating members to seek help when necessary, instead of withdrawing from the process. In terms of the process, it was outlined that each member would participate by sharing their own experiences and learning from others’ experiences. When a member shared, others were encouraged to remain silent until the narration was complete.

Group Members

The group consisted of Mr. Mosley, Miss Shelby, Mr. Adams, Mr. Walter, Miss Eve, and Mr.s Hemmings. All participants were aged 25 and above, with the youngest, Miss Shelby, being 25 years old, and the oldest, Mr. Walter, at 46.

  1. Mr. Mosley: A former literature professor, Mr. Mosley was characterized by his polite and attentive listening. He paid close attention to others’ expressions but often missed the underlying meaning. He began his alcohol addiction after losing his job and continued to struggle. He was currently 40 years old.
  2. Miss Shelby: The youngest member of the group, Miss Shelby’s connections with others were hindered by self-destructive beliefs, leading her to believe she was “unworthy of affection.” Despite seeking comfort and attention, she often expected the worst, which negatively impacted her relationships and led her to addiction.
  3. Mr. Walter: A social scientist specializing in environmental conflict, Mr. Walter often felt “stalled” at critical junctures in his life. His struggle revolved around reconciling his desire and potential for success with his inclination to defy others’ expectations. His alcohol addiction began after a divorce, which resulted in ongoing alimony payments.
  4. Mr.s. Hemmings: Unlike the others who hid behind idealization and denial, Mr.s. Hemmings was openly secretive, fearing that everything she had to share was “rotten.” Despite her intellectual ability and physical attractiveness, she presented herself modestly. Her alcohol addiction began after the death of her husband, with whom she had no children, and served as an escape from loneliness.
  5. Mr. Adams: A middle-aged former war veteran, Mr. Adams had a low tolerance for ambiguity or conflict despite experiencing two tours in Afghanistan during his military service. His alcohol consumption started after retiring from service, as he struggled with sleep disturbances due to traumatic war memories.
  6. Miss Eve: Miss Eve, a compassionate mental health nurse, struggled with a strong need to give to others while feeling insatiable herself. She believed there was “insufficient to go around” and was continually conflicted between helping others and meeting her own needs. Peer influence was a significant factor in her alcohol addiction.

Group Dynamics and Processes

The group displayed a sense of unity and togetherness stemming from their shared experiences during the initial introduction to the group. The prevailing ethic within the group was one of unconditional mutual support, which helped comfort members and alleviate their low self-esteem and fear of conflict and confrontation (Wendt & Gone, 2018). Over the initial sessions, members realized that being excessively “nice” might not serve the best interests of their fellow members in achieving the organization’s mission. Consequently, members began working on this issue by negotiating increasingly detailed treatment plans for those who continued to struggle with alcohol consumption, particularly focusing on the steps to reduce intake.

Meeting Content

During the self-narrations related to substance abuse by group members, each individual’s frustrations, issues, or concerns were often “restructured” into a simple cognitive framework that was easily comprehensible to others. This approach simplified problems into the common denominator of alcohol-related issues, allowing other members to identify with and understand the connections. In this way, members’ issues were reframed as shared struggles associated with alcoholism, such as resistance to change, rather than personal flaws (Park & Kim, 2021).


The importance of understanding and empathizing with individual perspectives and life experiences has been explored within the therapeutic alliance. Affiliative discussions about personal experiences, like those held during the group meetings, have been linked to peer support in group counseling interventions aimed at improving members’ health and well-being (Humphreys et al., 2020). Previous research has indicated that affiliative discussions of personal experiences are crucial in achieving the essential goals for members’ success (Wubbolding & Brickell, 2017).

Two best practice interactional factors related to members’ ability to share personal life experiences are particularly noteworthy. Firstly, group members must be given the opportunity to share their personal experiences and demonstrate their understanding of each other’s experiences, often with the counselor’s facilitation and sometimes through extended discussions. This exchange allows participants to compare their perspectives, identify similarities and differences, and gain insights through self-reflection (Md. & Saba, 2018). Even in situations where group interaction primarily involves monologues without immediate commentary, such as in 12-step meetings, these stories are crafted to enhance a shared therapeutic understanding and support the therapy process. Participants used each other’s stories as templates to relate their own experiences during AA meetings, for instance.

Secondly, the engagement of group members in conversations with one another and the selection of members as presenters play a crucial role. This engagement is facilitated not only by the coordinators but also through direct participant interactions. Participants relate to and evaluate each other’s contributions, ask questions, offer information and advice, or share their own relevant experiences (Ray, 2019). Empirical evidence supports the idea that self-reflective conversations promote collaborative, reflective processing, creating topics open for discussion by incorporating aspects of counseling with personal experiences, thus fostering discussions suitable for communal exploration and learning (Wendt & Gone, 2018).


In conclusion, the observations made during the Alcoholics Anonymous support group meetings reveal the significance of affiliative discussions of personal experiences in group counseling and peer support. These observations align with best practices in group counseling, emphasizing the importance of creating a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and learn from one another. AA’s focus on reframing issues as common struggles associated with alcoholism rather than personal flaws demonstrates its commitment to providing a supportive and empathetic environment for its members. Overall, the group dynamics, leader behaviors, and meeting content observed in AA meetings align with principles of effective group counseling and support groups.

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