To read this content please select one of the options below:

Mutual dependence and the “Goldilocks group”: exploring service user dependency on mutual aid recovery groups

Thomas James Parkman (National Addiction Centre, Addictions Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK)
Charlie Lloyd (Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK North Yorkshire, YO10 5DD, United Kingdom.)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore the theme of dependence on mutual aid identified in a previous paper. It is a theme which to date, has had very little empirical attention, especially in a UK context.


A phenomenological approach was adopted. Interviews with service users, mentors and professional staff involved with the Learning to Live Again project were undertaken over a ten-month period of data collection. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.


It was found that service users with very little access to recovery capital or social support are at risk of developing a dependency on mutual aid. Dependence seemed to manifest itself in two different forms – those that over engaged with the project and those that under engaged with the project. Consequently, there were a cohort of service users identified that seemed to strike a balance with the project and their life outside the project that was “just right”. They were referred to as the “Goldilocks group”.


This paper explored a theme which has had very little attention paid to it. The theme of dependence on mutual aid will raise the awareness of such a threat, thus helping to identify those in treatment most at risk of developing dependency on mutual aid, thus detrimentally impacting on mental wellbeing.



This research was carried out in part fulfilment for a PhD funded by the National Institute of Health Research and the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care. The author would like to thank Charlie Lloyd and Professor Karen Spilsbury, Professor Karl Atkin, Professor Kate Pickett and Dr Laura Sheard.


Parkman, T.J. and Lloyd, C. (2015), "Mutual dependence and the “Goldilocks group”: exploring service user dependency on mutual aid recovery groups", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 49-58.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles