This paper argues that in addition to the substantial benefits they provide for members, on-line support groups create the potential for harm. Qualitative discourse analysis methods are used to examine messages exchanged in three distinct groups comprised of sexual abuse survivors, persons with disabilities, and parents. Examples of on-line practices with the potential to be harmful to individuals, dyadic relationships, and the larger group are identified. Several protective practices used by these groups that appear uniquely adapted for on-line support environments are also documented. Tentative guidelines are suggested for human services professionals interested in developing on-line support groups or referring clients to existing groups. The paper concludes with a discussion of the need for more research and a caution about the ethical responsibilities of researchers and practitioners who venture into this rapidly developing context of human service work.
- support groups,
- harmful effects
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/melissa_lavitt/4/