Today is World AIDS Day which has prompted me to write about support forums online. The internet has changed the way some of us approach living with a new diagnosis. Now with the internet we have instant access to information that used to require library access. And the internet goes beyond just allowing access to information- people can communicate using a variety of delivery methods from email and chat to group chats, discussion boards and forums, videoconferencing and voice-over.
Since the internet’s inception the use of online support forums has become a mainstay. People can find support forums for nearly every mental, emotional or physical difficulty. Websites such as DailyStrength.org offer a one-stop portal to find peer support for many issues including HIV/AIDS.
At the Online Therapy Institute, we offer a Web Directory that lists several forums and other websites that promote peer support (people with like issues coming together to suppport one another). If you are a mental health professional, consider offering information to your clients about forums and discussion boards that might be helpful. Forums can be a great adjunct to therapy, offering support and information between sessions. If you are a person seeking information about a difficult diagnosis or situation, consider utilizing a forum online.
Be sure to consider privacy issues. While there are many forums available that are free to join, they may not be encrypted. Most are password protected, but even so, if the forum offers an RSS feed, you might find your post floating in cyberspace with personal information that you had hoped only to share among a few. Be sure you understand the limits of privacy and confidentiality when using a forum or discussion board.
DeeAnna Merz Nagel