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Hair Pullers Anonymous (HPA)
An Introduction


What is HPA?

HPA is a group of people who have a disorder called trichotillomania, or compulsive hair pulling.  We have experienced many difficulties as a result of this disorder. Many of us had never even met or talked to another hair puller before joining. In HPA we learn to abstain from hair pulling, and to cope when we have relapses. We learn that we do not have to live alone with our problem any more; we have the care and support of others who understand what it is like to live with trichotillomania.

HPA is a Twelve Step program of recovery, based on other Twelve Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.  Two current group members formed the HPA GROUP in Cambridge , Massachusetts in 1990.  Today our group consists of about a dozen recovering hair pullers, many of whom have been members for between one and three years.


Does it really work?

Most HPA members are experiencing a level of recovery, which we could not achieve before joining the group.  We experience periods of abstinence that have ranged from a few months to a year.  We also sometimes experience relapses varying in length from a day to a month or more.  While relapses occur, we do not suffer from shame and isolation as we once did.  Our fear of the disorder gradually abates.  We learn from these relapses, accept ourselves, and attain abstinence again.  In most cases the relapses are not as severe as our pulling was before we joined HPA.  The program really does work, if we work it.


How do I join HPA?

You are a HPA member if and when you come to a meeting.  The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop hair pulling.


Are there membership fees?

There are no dues or fees for HPA membership.  Like other Twelve Step programs, HPA is self-supporting through our own voluntary contributions.  The money collected is used to cover expenses such as photocopying HPA literature, postage to answer requests for information, and our post office box.  Members are free to contribute as much or as little as they want, or not at all.


What happens at an HPA meeting?

You will find hair pullers talking about the effect that hair pulling has had on their lives, what we do to cope with the disorder, and how we are living our lives today.  Meetings follow a Twelve Step format.  We focus on use of the Twelve Steps; program Tools and literature as adapted from other Twelve Step programs.  We do not engage in “cross talk,” that is, we do not respond directly to individual members after they speak.  We each share from our own experience addressing the group as a whole.  We have found that this format provides us with a secure place in which to express ourselves freely without fear of criticism or judgment.  This way, we each discover our own way of applying the principles of the program to our own lives.  The format reminds us that we are all equal and helps the group to maintain unity and harmony.  The format also encourages us to listen fully, so that we can benefit from the experience, strength and hope of others.  We learn by listening, rather than by receiving advice; we help by sharing from our own experience rather than by giving advice.


Why use the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of AA?

People with many different problems have adapted and applied the principles of AA with success.  The Twelve Steps describe a basic outline for living.   Not based on any specific religious discipline, the Steps can provide a spiritual foundation for people of all backgrounds.  All that is required is open-mindedness, willingness to grow, and honesty.  Every individual uses the Steps and Tools in  his or her own unique way.  The Steps and Tools help us find freedom from compulsive hair pulling.  The Traditions serve the group as a whole, safeguarding anonymity and group unity, ensuring that HPA will continue to help hair pullers for years to come.


Why this talk about a “Higher Power” and God?  Is HPA a religious organization?

No, nor are we allied with any religious organization.  We have found that we are helped to recover from compulsive hair pulling not through our individual will power, but by help from a Power greater than ourselves.  Each member understands this Power in his or her own way.  Some have trouble believing in a Higher Power at all.  There is room in HPA for all varieties and degrees of belief.

Can I share insights from therapy or non-Twelve Step sources during the meeting?  According to our Traditions, HPA endorses no outside enterprise and has no opinion on outside issues.  Our focus is on our experiences and on how we can apply principles of the program to our lives.  The introduction of outside influences or subjects during a meeting diverts us from our goals.  Reviewing our therapy sessions, medication or other treatments or resources during the meeting dilutes the HPA message and can deprive others of the unique help HPA has to offer.   We often discuss these matters informally after the meeting, or when we call each other between meetings.


Does coming to a meeting commit me to anything?

No.  No one will bother you if you attend and then don’t want to come back.  You don’t have to embrace the Twelve Steps to attend our meetings; you will be welcome just the same.  You can come to the meetings, take what you like, and leave the rest.


Why is it suggested that I attend other Twelve Step program meetings?

Our HPA group meets just once a week.  People new to Twelve Step programs are encouraged to attend more than one meeting a week.  Newcomers often find that attending other Twelve Step meetings helps them to see the variety of ways in which people apply the principles to their lives.  It can also help us to go to a meeting of other Twelve Step programs are rather large and it is easy to blend into the woodwork and just listen.  You may be surprised at how much you identify with the feelings of people at the other meetings, even if their specific problems are different.


Can I bring a friend of family member to the HPA meeting?

At this point, our HPA meeting is closed to persons who are not hair pullers.  If a friend or family member wishes to learn about HPA, perhaps they would like to read some of our literature or attend an open meeting of another Twelve Step group.


Are there other HPA groups?

As of 1992, we know of groups in Santa Cruz , Los Angeles , Seattle , Toronto , and Minneapolis using the Twelve Step format for hair pulling.  We are all pioneers!


How can I start a meeting?

It takes just two people to form a group.  You will need to find a place to meet; many hospitals and churches will rent space to your group.  Literature is available from the local Central Service office of A.A.; our HPA group will be happy to provide literature, which we have adapted for our own use.  For more information about starting an HPA meeting, please contact us.


You are not alone!
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