Online Support Groups—Too Much Self-Disclosure?

As of 2009, there were an estimated 55 different Internet grief support groups offering communities for all types of losses. Earlier research described such sites as “cyber-refuges” from a world where grief was unwelcome, and found that those bereaved by suicide in particular found such support online helpful, especially having access to an outlet day and night. But a recent analysis of the content of messages posted on several web-based support groups found that self-disclosure accounted for two-thirds of all statements. Although research on peer helping has found that such a high level of self-disclosure can hinder interaction, the authors conclude that the bereaved who go online are both offering and seeking support, and that a protocol has developed whereby respondents share their own personal experiences in response to the original post. The authors conclude, “In many cases, internet grief communities may serve as a valued supplement to therapy. However, it is important that practitioners weigh the potential benefits and risks of grief forums when recommending them to clients. They also should monitor their clients’ experiences with such forums.”

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