Simone Hoermann, Ph.D., is a Psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in providing psychotherapy for Personality Disorders, Anxiety, and Depression ...Read More
Just as I finished my last blog post on the DSM 5 personality disorders, I stumbled upon an article from May 2008 on cnn.com about blogging as a form of group therapy. The article opened with a story about a 24 year old woman, 90dayjane, who started her blog by saying she planned to commit suicide 90 days later. Apparently, the outpouring of response and support she received was so overwhelming that, fortunately, only a few days later she wrote a post stating that her blog was an art project and she did not intend to kill herself. She allegedly also stated that the experience had changed her outlook on life.
I was intrigued. As a group therapist, I get to observe every day what a powerful experience group therapy can be. It can be so rewarding to express your feelings and to share about yourself in a group of peers, and to give and receive support.
I have also learned to appreciate just hard it is to open up to others, how difficult it can be to share yourself on a significant emotional level, and what a challenge it is to allow yourself to be vulnerable, maybe a little embarrassed even. And yet, the benefits of group work can be tremendous.
So, could blogging possibly have a similar effect? Does sharing your experience online and receiving feedback and comments from others make you feel better?
One thing that might be helpful about blogging is that you stop and reflect on your life. In a way, this can be considered a form of mentalizing. There’s some benefit to this act of self-reflection – put in somewhat technical terms, it can be a way of regulating your emotions. There’s some relief in thinking about your experience – the ability to reflect on your feelings is a way of stepping back and looking at them, so you’re less entangled in the situation. This ability to step back and understand also enables us to problem-solve more effectively.
The other benefit of blogging is that people read and respond to your blog. You put yourself out there, and it is nice to know that people take notice of you, acknowledge you, and respond to you. And it’s particularly nice when they support you. On the other hand, putting yourself out there like that involves an element of exposing yourself. Not everyone might respond in a friendly manner, and sometimes you might afterwards feel that you revealed too much of yourself. You also might outgrow certain things over time, but the blog entry can be difficult to erase from the web.
There are significant differences between real-world group therapy and blogging, of course. One is the absence or presence of a group therapist. Plus, what happens in group therapy is bound to confidentialty, and, of course, with a blog it’s the opposite. However, another big difference is that there typically is no face to face interaction in blogging.
John Suler, a clinical psychologist at Rider University, writes about identity management in cyberspace and the endless possibilities of online identities. There’s a bunch of different options: You can create a whole new identity, you can present yourself as you are in real life, or you can emphasize or change certain things about you in cyberspace. How do your real life and your cyber personality fit together? How does the potential for anonymity affect dynamics and interactions in online communities? Mark Dombeck wrote an interesting comment related to this topic a while back.
In 2005, Allbusiness published a survey of 600 bloggers by aol.com. Of note, half of the bloggeres surveyed said they blogged as a form of therapy. One-third of them wrote about self-help and self-esteem issues. About another third said they turned to blogging in order to relieve anxiety. Compare that to 5% of bloggers who said they turn to mental health professionals.
According to Aaron Smith, a 2008 survey from Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 12% of internet users keep a blog. That’s a pretty large number. So, if you’re one of those 12%, let us know. And let us know if it’s good for you.