In the groundbreaking book, The Healing Power of Doing Good,by Allan Luks and writer Peggy Payne, we are offered insights into the relationship between health and doing good by helping others. Luks, a renowned health and social services professional, led the first research linking emotional and physical health benefits experienced by those who regularly helped others—especially those with similar health issues or behaviors.
In March, 2011, the work of an associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Marie Pagano, PhD, has been published in Alcohol Treatment Quarterly. Pagano has been researching the Helper Therapy Principal or HTP. This is based on the same principals evidenced in the work of Luks that shows when people help other people they are in essence helping themselves through the positive behavior they are enacting with their compassionate assistance of others.
HTP is especially impactful when the helper and the individual they are helping share the same or similar condition or concern—such as weight loss, alcoholism or depression. Pagano’s published review article on Helper Therapy Principal, in the Alcohol Treatment Quarterly, cites studies that demonstrate a wide variety of health conditions can be improved with the application of HTP.
Individuals suffering from Multiple Sclerosis; who volunteered to participate in monthly phone calls with other suffers, were showed to have a reduction in depression, as well as an increase in their self-esteem and self-confidence. Individuals suffering from chronic pain syndromes who volunteered to interact and counsel others experiencing chronic pain, experienced a substantial decrease in their chronic pain and depression that they had been experiencing, prior to the volunteering.
The most well known HTP intervention is the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step program, where individuals who have experienced alcohol abuse counsel and are counseled by others with the same condition. Alcoholics, who help others, have a 50% greater chance of staying sober during their first year of sobriety than those who do not. Once again, in these volunteers, levels of self-esteem improved as well as their levels of depression decreased.
As Luks points out in his highly researched book, that when we incorporate helping others into our lifestyle we experience less depression, higher self-esteem, greater life satisfaction, and even a longer lifespan. If you are looking for a behavior change to improve any aspect of your health or life, you may want to look for a way to help others and thereby help yourself!
- Dr. Georgianna Donadio