Online Social Media and the Group Psychotherapist: Online Groups AGPA Annual Meeting March 5, 2011 Robert Hsiung, MD [email_address]
Moderation by a mental health professional
Online Peer Support Groups
Opportunity to develop skills
Information I was terrified to see a psychiatrist for the first time, Babble posters told me what to expect and helped me get through it. I had side effects that I didn't realize were side effects. I am a clinical psychologist, and for me it was valuable to read about other people's experiences with therapists.
Sometimes Google just gets too complicated.
Information When conflicts arise between the personal doctor and the information here, it can be stressful and cause uncertainty and distress.
I don't often request factual information off the boards, but approach such information with a skeptical attitude. I trust babblers to be critical and not let erroneous information go without comment.
Support While I was surrounded by people there was nobody that I could talk to. By reading other people's posts I felt less alone and less crazy. I was able to post about things that I was too afraid or ashamed to talk to someone about face to face. Sometimes I would receive responses that gave me the strength and courage to tell my clinicians.
I find it empowering when people respond positively to the suggestions and support that I offer.
Support Babble takes care of my need to tell someone when things are going badly. That improves my real-world relationships because it takes that pressure off them. If we are in danger of hurting ourselves we are kept in check by the people here. And there are ways to contact the officials. That makes me feel more secure. Someone CARES!
I feel more real and substantial here than in the physical world. I am not sure that I exist unless someone is reading words that I write.
Support Babble has also enraged me at times. When I am really in crisis, the uncertainty and delay limit the usefulness. It can also be soul-destroying if you post your problem and get few replies, none of them actually supportive.
There was one particular day I can remember being really worried about a poster whose last post was desperate. That's one of the reasons I have taken a break sometimes.
Opportunity to Develop Skills Babble gives me the opportunity to practice responding rather than reacting to others. We have the opportunity to really think about our posts before hitting 'submit.'
I avoid conflict in the real world because I associate it with physical violence and verbal abuse. But physical violence and verbal abuse aren't things that I have to worry about with Babble so it is a relatively safe setting for me to get some exposure to conflict and hopefully learn some skills around conflict resolution.
Modality There is such a diverse group of people here -- from all walks of life, from different places and backgrounds and countries. There were times when I needed companionship but couldn't leave the house. The anonymity of Babble is a blessing because we can connect on line in an honest way without revealing our identities.
I like Babble because nobody stares at my scars.
Modality Anonymity is also a cover, a mask; it's hard to know if people are being honest. There are usually far too many posts for me personally to read them all. There are lots of nasty people out there too, which can be easy to forget within the (generally) supportive atmosphere on the boards. You have to have Internet access, and in a situation where it's private.
Messages can sometimes be misunderstood.
The Bottom Line I discovered Psycho-Babble while searching for information on suicide in August 2003. How to commit, not prevent, suicide. That I am still here shows that the Psycho-Babble community helped me get through some rough times.