Nurturing health-related online support groups:exploring the experience of patient moderators

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Coulson, Neil S. ; Shaw, Rachel L. (2013)

The aim of this study was to examine the views of moderators across a diverse and geographically broad range of online support groups about their moderator experiences and to explore both the personal benefits as well as challenges involved. Thirty-three patient moderators completed an online questionnaire which included a series of open-ended questions. Thematic analysis identified three themes: emergence, empowerment, nurturing. Several moderators declared their own diagnosis and for some, being able to share personal insights motivated them to establish the group and in turn offered validation. They felt empowered by helping others and learned more about the condition through accessing the "communal brain". Some felt the group aided patients' access to health services and their ability to communicate with health professionals while others worried about them becoming over-dependent. Moderators described needing to nurture their group to ensure it offered a safe space for members. Clear rules of engagement, trust, organisation skills, compassion and kindness were considered essential. Patient moderated online support groups can be successfully developed and facilitated and can be empowering for both the group member and moderator alike.
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