How To Get More Out Of Online Peer Support Groups

The internet has made it possible to connect with all sorts of people from all over the world. If you're dealing with a complex illness, a mental health difficulty, or even a tumultuous relationship, there are online peer support groups filled with others who share your struggles and are able to offer comradeship and support. However, in order to get the most out of these online support groups, you will want to follow these guidelines and tips.

1. Ignore the drama.

Most people using peer support groups are under some degree of stress, and as such, some of them can become a little dramatic or troll-like. If you allow yourself to get angry at any of the drama in the group, then you won't be getting the full benefits of the group. It's best if you just ignore these naysayers and negative people and focus on getting to know the helpful, supportive individuals.

2. Don't disclose your identity.

It can feel refreshing to be a part of a support group and to feel like you can finally be open about what you're going through. However, in this openness, you should be careful not to share too much about your actual identity. You don't want potential employers to necessarily search your name and see what you've posted in such a group. And even if what you post is supposedly secure and hidden, there's no way to guarantee it won't become searchable in the future. Don't use your last name. Don't tell anyone what town you're from. And if you post about friends and family members, change their names for their own privacy and yours.

3. Read other people's stories, too.

People got a lot of support by posting their stories and asking for input. But remember that you're not the only one who needs help and support. Make sure you spend time reading others' stories and offering your own input, too. Not only will this help the other posters, but it will help you reframe your own experiences and feel less alone.

4. Spend a designated amount of time in the groups.

Support groups are really helpful, but they can also be a bit addicting. You have other things in your life — a job, family responsibilities, friends. Spending 10 hours a day posting in a support group may take away from other activities. Try to set a limit for yourself. For example, you could spend an hour a day in the group each evening. This way, you'll get the benefits without your life becoming all about support.