Virtual Support Groups & Online Resources

Peer-to-peer support can now be found online using popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, and in the form of personal blogs. While virtual support can be beneficial for both individuals with an acquired brain injury and caregivers, it is important to also recognize the potential risks associated with this new outlet of online support.

After brain injury, social communication may be a challenge due to aphasia, changes in information processing and attention, or identifying social cues. Virtual interactions allow individuals to read and write comments at their own pace while avoiding misunderstandings via social cues and nonverbal communication. Naslund, Aschbrenner, Marsch, and Bartels (2016) examined the use of online peer-to-peer support groups and found that online support groups can help improve self-esteem, decrease isolation, challenge social stigma, provide validation, and generate feelings of acceptance and hope. In addition, online support groups helped individuals navigate healthcare resources, find professionals, prepare for medical appointments, and gain a sense of empowerment and control in the recovery process.

Naslund et al. (2016) also noticed potential risks connected with online support groups including: challenges with reliability and knowing when information is trustworthy; possibilities of encountering negative comments; and furthering challenges in real world social interactions due to avoidance. Individuals with a brain injury may have more challenges evaluating information online because of changes in self-awareness, insight, and judgment. It is important to be aware of these downfalls so that you can make an informed decision about accessing virtual support groups.

If you’re looking for a support group, below are some things you may want to consider:

  • Is it attached to a reputable site?
  • Is there a moderator who can provide guidance?
  • Does the moderator filter negative comments?
  • Do the things people share or comment on, leave you feeling uncomfortable?
  • Is this group open to the public?

Written By: Cathy Danilec

Cathy is one of Brain Care Centre’s Support Facilitators and Counsellors. She has a Master’s Degree from St. Stephen’s College and in her current role, she facilitates various support groups and offers one-on-one counselling services.