The role of a religious psychoeducational group in recovery from mental illness : an outcome evaluation.
In light of recent attention to the overwhelming burden of care for those with mental illness, one proposed addition to the portfolio of services is a peer-led, religious psychoeducational support group called the Living Grace Group (LGG). These groups are based on an evidence base supporting each key component: psychoeducation for diverse mental health issues, religious integration in psychological services, and peers as leaders and facilitators of care. Nevertheless, the combination of psychoeducation and religious integration in a peer led support group, especially one designed to run in churches, has not previously been examined. In the present study, members of existing Living Grace Groups across the U.S. and internationally were surveyed before and after the course of the groups for the purpose of describing typical members of the groups and examining changes typical of group participants. Members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Peer-to-Peer Program were similarly surveyed and served as a comparison group for the LGG. The characteristics of LGG participants in the current study were typical of a clinical sample with individuals reporting high religiousness and a desire for religious integration in treatment. These individuals reported high levels of satisfaction with the group and significant changes in religious coping, spirituality, anxiety, depression, and recovery. When compared to the Peer to Peer group, LGG participants manifested significantly greater change in recovery over the duration of the group, and greater but non-significant changes on other measures. The LGG appears to be a feasible and helpful intervention that is culturally sensitive for religious individuals. Because leading requires minimal training and the groups are supported by church communities, these groups expand options for care while addressing significant barriers to service.