Life On The Line: The Therapeutic Potentials Of Computer-Mediated Conversation

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Journal Of Marital And Family Therapy


In what ways are computer networking practices comparable to face-to-face therapy? With the exponential increase in computer-mediated communication and the increasing numbers of people joining topically based computer networks, the potential for grass-roots therapeutic (or antiherapeutic) interchange is greatly augmented. Here we report the results of research into exchanges on an electronic bulletin board devoted to the topic of suicide. Over an 11-month period participants offered each other valuable resources in terms of validation of experience, sympathy, acceptance, and encouragement. They also asked provocative questions and furnished broad-ranging advice. Hostile entries were rare. However, there were few communiques that parallel the change-inducing practices more frequent within many therapeutic settings. In effect, on-line dialogues seemed more sustaining than transforming. Further limits and potentials of on-line communication are explored.