The term “guru” means "teacher," but the word is generally used to describe anyone who has a profound amount of knowledge and wisdom on a given subject, usually from personal experiences and teachings. A self-help guru is a person who has undergone a dramatic, but positive, change in his or her life and uses what he or she learned from this change to help others better their own lives. Normally, a self-help guru provides insight and advice as well as challenges people in need to help them reach their own life-changing realizations. This is done either in an individual or group setting.
There are many techniques employed by a guru, but only a few are used by the majority of gurus. Within a group setting, the self-help guru organizes meetings and set goals for the group. He or she also offers advice to anyone who requests it and encourages those in attendance to continue on their personal journeys toward betterment. Often, the guru will use this as an opportunity to meet a potential client to help on a more personal basis.
On an individual basis, the guru may be more accessible. Typically he or she will be on-call most hours of the day. He or she will also provide more advice and direction in how the client thinks and acts on an everyday basis. This includes teaching the person how to shift his or her thoughts to more positive attitudes and teaching meditation or yoga techniques to ease the mind and relieve stress.
There is an on-going debate as to what makes a person a legitimate self-help guru or someone who simply claims to be one. More traditional people believe that a true self-help guru must spend years reflecting upon their Inner self and receiving teachings from an already established guru. These traditionalists believe this is the only way to reach a true epiphany that may benefit others. Those who are more contemporary in their thinking believe that anyone who has undergone such a change and can actually use this to benefit others can become a guru.
While most self-help gurus are sincere, there are cases of unscrupulous self-help gurus. There have been cases when a self-help guru has manipulated clients, friends and family to give him or her money in exchange for help, advice or a self-help program. In some of these cases, the self-help guru may then disappear with the money. In other cases, the self-help guru may convince his or her clients to do things that may put them at risk.