While this book will, hopefully, have much to offer to people of various backgrounds who are interested in mental health and emotional maturity, even a first glance at its contents will reveal that it is directed to specific readers who use a common method or belong to an ongoing school of mental health. It is, in fact, a collection of readings for discussion in the regular weekly meetings of GROW Groups.
Now, what is GROW?
GROW is an international community mental health movement. It began in Sydney, Australia, in April, 1957, when a number of former mental patients, who had discovered the mutual help group method while attending meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, began to meet on their own to work more directly on their problems of rehabilitation after mental breakdown. They resolved that they would try to preserve their experience and record whatever they found successful or helpful for their recovery. Their groups were, in fact, first known as Recovery Groups.
As the years went by, the groups increased to their present number of approximately 400 and spread beyond Australia to three other counties - New Zealand, the U.S.A. (Hawaii State) and Eire. At the same time, their experience of finding mental health together produced an elaborate Program of Personal Growth, a carefully structured Group Method and a vigorous Caring and Sharing Community. The keynote of this growth was the maximum use of each one's personal resources; the animating principle of the groups was friendship and friendly help; and the foremost common aim was understanding - understanding of what mental health is, how to get it and how to keep it.
The original "Recovery Groups" are now known as "GROW Groups". The change of name reflects a change in their membership, especially in recent years. Once they became well known, they began to attract people who had not suffered mental breakdown, but nevertheless had serious problems and needed help. As a result, some 40 to 50 per cent of members now attend for what might be called preventive reasons rather than for rehabilitation. The common goal of all members is growth to personal maturity. This Program is summarized in the following definitive TWELVE STEPS OF PERSONAL GROWTH.
Of the two hours of the weekly group meeting 20 to 30 minutes are devoted to reading and discussion of some aspect of the GROW Program. Some material which highlights insights the group leaders have gained together over the years is read. This reading is shared, a paragraph or two being read by each group member in turn. The subject is then thrown open to full and free discussion. Unlike the rest of the meeting, which is predominantly geared to personal problem solving, this discussion is deliberately kept as objective and general as possible and is meant to be a common exercise in thinking and learning.
Most of the material thus singled our for reading and discussion is feedback from GROW's own Leaders' Meetings (held monthly in each of the Organization's main centres). These are called Program Commentary. In addition, suitable readings have also been drawn from competent authorities in psychology, psychiatry and contemporary thought generally - the criterion being always concurrence with GROW's own group experience and the primacy of personal values and personal responsibility for mental health. These added readings are referred to as the Anthology. All the readings are classified under the particular Step of the GROW Program to which they are most relevant. There are five readings for each Step - three from the Program Commentary and two from the Anthology. Together they amount to a good representative selection of readings for a year's group meetings.