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Home Articles Taking Care of You Can Virtual Support Help You Heal?

Can Virtual Support Help You Heal?

How to get the most out of online support services and survivor communities

  • Aug 26, 2020
  • By Shelley Flannery
  • 24 shares
  • 358 have read
Can Virtual Support Help You Heal?

For many reasons, not the least of which is safety, it can be difficult for victims and survivors of domestic violence to visit a therapist, go to a support group or even meet up with a friend to talk. For these reasons, many survivors are turning to online resources.

“Online support can absolutely be helpful, especially during vulnerable times, or if the survivor lives in a more rural area where in-person support may not be as readily available,” says Nicole Arzt, licensed marriage and family therapist and mental health content expert for invigormedical.com. “Likewise, it can be beneficial for survivors who lack access to reliable transportation and/or have busy schedules that can’t accommodate traditional means of support.”

Another benefit of virtual support is that it’s easy to access from nearly anywhere. 

“If a survivor does not feel like their home is a safe environment to participate in an online support group, there are other options,” says psychotherapist Jennifer Tomko, LCSW, owner of Clarity Health Solutions in Florida. “If the person is afraid their abuser is tracking where they go, the victim should go to a place that is not suspicious, a place that they go to regularly. Some public libraries have private study rooms that are complimentary. Going to a friend’s or family member’s home, a private office or conference room in your place of work, or even sitting in your car may be options as well.”

Support Comes in Many Forms

There are several options when it comes to online support, each with its own pros and cons.

Type

Pros

Cons

Bottom Line

Telehealth/virtual doctor visits

(Example: mdlive.com)

One-on-one help from a medical professional

Can be costly, depending on your insurance coverage

Definitely worth it if symptoms of anxiety or depression are interfering with your daily life

Online one-on-one counseling sessions

(Example: talkspace.com)

Individualized counseling from a licensed therapist through text, chat or video sessions

Typically not covered by insurance and isn’t cheap

May be worth the investment in order to get immediate, professional support for trauma

Online group therapy (Example: turntome.ie)

Access to sound advice from a professional for little to no-cost;

Sessions are generally moderated and steered toward a specific topic, which may or may not be helpful to you

Look for a group that’s lead by a licensed social worker or mental health professional

Online peer support groups

(Example: therapytribe.com)

Anonymity and the ability to talk with a lot of people who have been in your shoes 

Without moderation from a licensed professional, these groups run the risk of disseminating poor advice and victim-shaming 

Look for a group that uplifts you, and always discuss safety-related matters with an advocate

Social media communities (Example:DomesticShelters.org Victims and Survivors)

May be more accessible than other options since most people already use social media platforms

Not anonymous unless you create a separate social media account just for the group 

Good place to find people who are facing similar experiences.  

Staying Safe Online 

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If you choose to participate in an online support group or community forum, you’ll want to keep the following safety tips in mind. Also, see our page on using the internet more safely

  • Be careful never to share details about your current location (home, place of work, city/state, etc.) 
  • Ask questions without divulging personally identifying information or getting overly specific about your situation until you’re confident you’re speaking with people you can trust
  • If an abuser tracks your digital usage, access online support through a work, public or loved one’s computer
  • Follow any rules established by the group for keeping your information and others’ safe
  • If you wish to connect with an individual on a deeper level, consider asking to video chat so you can be certain who you’re talking to

Looking for a supportive community that “gets you”? Start by joining the DomesticShelters.org Victims and Survivors Community on Facebook. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels