How to Evaluate an Internet Group or Forum Before Joining

It is common for people to go to Internet groups to ask members if they have a particular mental illness. Yes, it’s a bit like going to a restaurant and asking people if you are hungry, but that’s what happens every day.


Those who choose to go to chat rooms and other Internet forums to get opinions about their intimate psychological problems forget, or forgo, the inherent nature of Internet groups that make questions and comments available to all and retain the information for eternity.


Where the Internet is stored

Where the Internet is stored (Photo credit: debs)


Here is some of what I’ve learned.


First, there are thousands of groups on every mental health subject imaginable.


Even though most groups screen potential members, it is easy to get past the initial queries of the group owner that are posed of new members. There is usually no way to ascertain who owns the group, who is actually in the group, their age, life experiences, what country they live in, their real identity, or what their motives are for being a member. Yet vulnerable people go to these groups seeking information and help perhaps thinking that accurate information and empathy will ensue.


Participants of Internet groups hide behind masks of anonymity most of the time – that is what makes the Internet an easy way to speak your mind or ask for help regarding private psychological matters. These groups readily create an illusion of immediate intimacy and trust. This points to potential danger, yet this knowledge does not deter people from seeking information, help, and validation of their experiences. There is no way to determine who the members are, yet people come to groups in a vulnerable state searching for answers to very intimate questions and situations they are struggling with.


Before choosing to join one of the thousands of Yahoo! groups addressing psychological issues there is a description of the group. And you can also see how many members there are. It is easy to think that a group with a lot of members must be a good one, but is that a correct assumption?


There is also a chart  showing how many comments were posted in a given month since the inception of the group. This information will let you know how active the participants are and how the group has grown, or dwindled, over the previous months and years. This information can be used as a deciding factor as to whether or not to join. It is easy to determine if the group is small and intimate, large, or inactive. If the number has say, 4,110  comments last month is it better than one that posts 330 comments?


What the statistics of a group do not tell you is how many people are actually participating in conversations. The group with 4,110 comments could be between 5 people, but you will not know that until you are accepted as a member and hang out for awhile. If a group has 400 members and only 5 comment furiously between each other, that means that 395 people are either not participating or are “lurking” – that is reading but not commenting.


When a new person enters a group the established members encourage the newbie to delve deeper into their feelings and experiences. The advise that ensues is easy to mistake for genuine caring and concern even though this may be the intent of some members.


The bottom line? Beware. Go to real people. Internet groups have the potential to say: Yes, you have a mental illness cause you sound just like me! Welcome.




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How to Evaluate an Internet Group or Forum Before Joining by Jeanette Bartha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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  1. therapyisacon

     /  04/19/2011

    Hi Jeanette – looks like my other comment didn’t make the cut. No worries. I was responding to the spelling-police, not you. 🙂 Just FYI


    • Hey, I didn’t cut anything intentionally. Maybe didn’t realize and deleted it but if I did, it will still be in a file. I keep everything. I’ll look for it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      p.s. could you give me a few key words about which comment you are referring to? Thx


      • therapyisacon

         /  04/19/2011

        The comments about UK v USA spelling. As a Canadian who is routinely exposed to ALL the various spellings in the English language, I say: relax. Heh.


        • Well, I say relax too. How am I supposed to know where the writer lives? I was hammered by a multiple person who wouldn’t let up on it. Come to find out she lives in New Zealand. There was another person who said I was being ego-American centric or some such nonsense. Most people do not use their real names. I can’t even address them.


    • Jeannette Bartha

       /  04/17/2013

      Sorry, didn’t see another by you. May have gone to my spam folder.


  2. V

     /  04/19/2011

    Regarding the original info, I did not read it all, but it really does seem like there is this issue of the focus being on the past (which is always shadowy and uncertain) vs. the present and future.

    This is one I think about and I try to strike a balance. I can’t pretend that my mother’s DID did not affect me and traumatize me. At the same time, I don’t want it to define my life. I want to learn what I can from it and share my experience to help myself and others, but I also want to live a full life. I think I have the capability to live a full life. I have as good a chance as anyone, despite everything .

    I have a sibling who turned to drugs to cope with the aftermath of DID therapy and family mental illness and I am not sure that this sibling will ever experience any part of life. I am grateful that i somehow managed to escape and I don’t want to squander my chance in bitterness.

    It is always a question of priorities I guess.


    • yes, DID therapy is mostly about the past and recreating and often rewriting it so in the end, it often does not represent actual facts.

      I’m glad you figured out a way to get out from under your trauma. I have mostly done so but still experience PTSD which I do not think will ever be going completely. I’ve learned to figure out what is going on faster and to be calmer while it’s happening. Hopefully, I’m wrong and the PTSD from therapy will leave me completely.

      Priorities, of course – to a degree. I’ve never looked at it that way. As I do, I see that your trauma came from within your family, mine was from outside the family. I wonder what the difference is? If any.


      • V

         /  04/19/2011

        The trauma to me sort of came from outside my family, but my mother was the proxy. I think the DID therapists were >90% responsible.

        I do think priorities help, and of course time to heal. You know how they tell couples in a bitter divorce, “You have to love your kids more than you hate each other?” I think that maybe it’s necessary to love something more than I hate the people who destroyed my family and my childhood. Maybe it’s as simple as loving myself more than I hate or distrust the DID therapists.

        I grew up hating myself because my mother saw me as an abuser (as a result of the false DID diagnosis.) I always felt so much shame. I spent ages 11-30 hating myself and thinking of suicide every single day.

        I am not sure about self-love. Love in general is a tough concept for me in a lot of ways. At any rate, I would say that I love my cats, my boyfriend, my friends and my work more than I hate the DID therapists. I am very lucky to have a real calling in life, even though my emotional problems have made my career a bit rocky.

        The 12-step groups I’m in would say the goal is to have all bitterness and anger removed. I used to want to hang onto my anger but I think it’s more useful for me to focus on things I can change, maybe.


        • Hello V, Thank you for your post it was most interesting and your emotions raw – I appreciate your willingness to be so open. Your perspective on the issues presented here are different from what I’m used to & it’s refreshing. I would Not have thought about the DID therapist being 90% responsible and from the outside. Duh. But of course. In the absence of those therapists, DID would Not have become a a diverted distraction and your Mother could have had a better chance of having her illness addressed properly.

          In my case, my DID is 100% from the therapist /outside. I continue to feel it odd that although I write and feel passionate about busting the MPD/DID myth, I do not hate Dr. Stratford for his ill treatment of me nor do I hate those I knew at the hospital. Of course there was a person here or there that I did not get on with but that’s normal. I think I Should hate him, or that I should want revenge. I don’t. I want to expose what he’s done. I want to let people know what happens when the door to the inner sanctum of a psychiatrist’s office closes. I want to change the system if only by exposing it and busting a myth or two. I want people to think so they don’t make the same mistakes I did at a time of high emotion and vulnerability that made me prey to bad medicine. People deserve to feel that mental health care is high quality and that they are going to be taken care of when they seek it – that does not occur some of the time & it’s the patient who pays the high price – and the therapist who usually walks away.

          The bad medicine was not the only thing that went wrong for me. It was the thought reform – changing my beliefs about my narrative history and making me doubt, then changing my views and knowledge about my ordinary childhood. As I sit here, I am amazed at how quickly I was indoctrinated into the DID way of thinking and viewing the world. In my case, I was kept in hospital for the first 2 years straight so it was easier to manipulate my physical and then psychological existence.

          It is a tight and predictable slide into coercion and manipulation – which of course, I did not recognize because I was up to my knees in it. During that time, if I read a site like mine, my head would have exploded and I would have defended my beliefs and my doctor with all I had. That’s what I Think would happen. I think that after reading over and over about opposing opinions if I would have thought differently. What I can say is that once I made room in my life for something other than Dr. Stratford and therapy, the cracks in the DID theories started to show light. No one outside the hospital ever told me I was acting differently, I never experienced another “personality”, I never came across someone that claimed to have had a conversation with me that I did not remember. On and on. The facts started to add up until I questioned my New memories, not the ones I’ve always had.


  3. Terri

     /  04/19/2011

    Why do you use the words of people who you say are (at best) misguided to make your point? How would you feel if someone used your words to prove that all those who believe in FMS and repressed memory therapy are abusive?

    Every word you write about multiples is scornful and disrespectful, so of course none of them are going to submit anything to your blog. What motivation would there be? All you’ll do is degrade them, as you have people in this, and other posts you’ve written.


    • Dear Terri,
      I said that I use posts that multiples make because I am not multiple and would not presume to speak for them.

      It is fine with me if people use my words they always do. To make ignorant or erroneous statements is another point altogether. To say that anyone who believes in FMS and repressed memory therapy is abusive is simply not so.

      Your interpretation that my writing as scornful towards you is coming from something in you not from me or what I am saying. I am addressing the issues of multiples and their therapists. I understand that that challenges your beliefs and that can be challenging.To say I am disrespectful and scornful is not exactly accurate.

      I’ve only met one person, Holly Gray, who believes she had DID, who can read my work and not interpret it as disrespectful. You might visit her site Don’t Call Me Sybil and see how she encourages debate and stimulating conversation that makes all involved uncomfortable and vulnerable. Because I don’t agree with what you think, does not mean I an disrespectful and scornful to you as a person. Thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts.


      • Terri

         /  04/19/2011

        Having read your interaction with Holly, I’d say she is saying that you are acting disrespectfully by using the words of multiples to say they are being mislead. You might want to read the comment thread again. She tells you not to do exactly what you have done here.

        It appears as if you think that if someone doesn’t agree with you they are insulting you. I don’t see where castorgirl insulted you, yet you accused her of doing so.

        You can debate bad therapy and multiples without stealing their work.


        • Gee, Terri, I have no idea how Holly’s comments can be misconstrued as you did with them. She even has a separate post praising everyone who has ever posted on her site as being respectful to each other. Why do you choose to see things the way you do? Anyone can go to Don’t Call Me Sybil and find that what I just said is true. Attacking me isn’t going to change the facts.

          I will not discuss my interactions with anyone else with you. If you have an issue to debate, please do.

          Quoting someone’s work and then referencing it is how journalism works. It is not stealing.


          • Terri

             /  04/20/2011

            I think you might be reading what you want to read into Holly’s post. It seems her post praising participants for being respectful was within the bounds of her blog, not the blogosphere as a whole. She calls you on your use of others work, and if you don’t see that, you need to go and read the comment thread again.

            Fair enough, you don’t have to debate anything with me. I don’t prescribe to your point of view, and are critical of your actions towards a vulnerable population.

            As for journalism, you’re not a journalist. If you were, you would know how to reference blog material. You’d know the basic principles of copyright. I see castorgirl has shown you how to reference properly below. This was the only way I was able to find the post you took her material from. It was interesting reading.

            You asked in another comment on this blog why I am here stoking the fire of a conversation that many of you want finished. Well this is on the first page of your blog, so I don’t see how it’s an old conversation. I see others have commented, and they’ve been welcome, why am I excluded? I’m here reading what you’ve written, and seen how you’ve interacted with someone. That’s all.


          • Terri, Below is the quote Holly made under the title: “Thank you” April 8, 2011.

            From the blog: Don’t Call Me Sybil I’m very proud to say that since its inception on June 15, 2010, no one, regardless of their opinions or feelings, has ever made an inappropriate comment here at Don’t Call Me Sybil. We haven’t attacked each other, belittled each other, or otherwise conducted ourselves in nasty, underhanded ways. And we’re not going to start now.”

            She is addressing people who have read and commented on her blog. That’s what I referred to. I did not say anything about the blogosphere as a whole. Again, what are you referring to?

            Yes, there is a missperception & misunderstanding about “using” others work. To discuss what others say and to quote them is what research & journalism is about. You may see it as using. What I believe is happening is that those I quote don’t want to be quoted. I found Holly’s thread intellectually stimulating and as she noted it was an exercise of vulnerability for us all. If you have a point to make, it’s up to you to prove & reference, it not me.

            Terri, I am simply not getting you at all. I’ve offered you to come and debate, you say I don’t. I reference the work of others, you accuse me of not doing so and using it. I mention Holly’s blog and the wonderful debate we had there, you accuse me of misreading it.

            This is a blog. I reference enough to let readers know where I got my information, who said it, and usually include a link to make it easier to find. A blog is not written as a professional peer-reviewed publication. Even so, I would have to choose an APA style, an MLA style and that changes by publisher. As I said, I think people are just pissed off that I have referenced something they wrote.

            You are not excluded from conversations as you state. I have not deleted or failed to approve anything you’ve submitted. If I did, it was by error please resend it and I will post it. People don’t like my work and don’t like me – that’s been stated. (the post is still on this blog somewhere) That’s OK. That doesn’t mean an opposing opinion is not welcome here, it is quite the reverse. I have yet to figure out how to debate myself, so different opinions are crucial. If I did not want them, I would set this blog up so no comments would be permitted.

            Please stop accusing me of acts I did not do.


          • Terri

             /  04/20/2011

            Holly Gray, in a comment dated April 10, 2011 at 4:04 pm, from the post Lessons in vulnerability, said…

            That is also why early on, I dedicated to a page “calling for submissions” – I have received No interest in the months that it’s been there.

            And you’re not going to as long as you actively disrespect the very people you’re asking for submissions from. And I don’t mean by saying DID doesn’t exist. Some people might say that’s disrespectful but whatever. … What’s disrespectful is taking other people’s words, very personal and vulnerable ones at that, and publicizing them as proof that what those people are experiencing is non-existent. Can you not see that? How would you have felt, if in those years you were living as a multiple, you’d written a recovery blog yourself. And, being a bit naive about the internet, you posted personal info about missing your therapist, your trauma history, or whatever. And someone who believes your entire experience is a lie took your personal thoughts and re-published them? You’d be embarrassed, yes? You’d feel a bit violated, yes? Don’t tell me, “No, Holly, I’d be thankful that someone had the guts to tell me the truth,” because you and I both know that’s bullshit. You might wish someone had come to you and set you straight, helped you see what was really going on, and cleared away the crap that was keeping you in unhealthy therapy. But there’s no way you would have wanted that to happen publicly, critically, and scornfully.”

            Jeanette, you are misinterpreting my words, and reading into them what you want. That makes it difficult to debate anything with you. You said that you wanted this conversation thread closed in another post, I responded to that by asking why I was being told to stop commenting, when you were interacting with others in this thread.

            I never said that a blog was peer reviewed, I said that you are not a journalist. If you were you would know how to treat information from other sources.

            If you’re not familiar with debating, why go into an area which is debatable? Why not blog about your own experiences, and use those to show why multiple personalities don’t exist?

            As an academic, I would view this blog as a reason not to publish, purchase or recommend your memoir. Your valid points are lost in the noise.


          • T,
            In response to you saying that I quote posts I find “as proof that what those people are experiencing is non-existent.” That is an incorrect statement. Please read my blog and you will find many statements about why I post certain research.

            T, you said regarding someone reposting my work: And someone who believes your entire experience is a lie took your personal thoughts and re-published them? You’d be embarrassed, yes? You’d feel a bit violated, yes? Don’t tell me, “No, Holly, I’d be thankful that someone had the guts to tell me the truth,” because you and I both know that’s bullshit.” Are you Holly Gray? Why are you referring to Holly?

            I agree, it’s difficult to debate with you as well. You are so far off topic, I can’t follow your thought processes or your reasoning. Please show me where I said I wanted this thread closed – I did not say that, if I did, I will correct it because that is not how I feel.

            T, you make way too many assumptions about what I may and may not feel. I think you are talking about yourself? Please reread my statement about peer-reviewed posts. You misread it. I have been journaling for most of my life and know the risks and accept them. You keep repeating yourself about journalism.

            I love to learn new things. Why not learn how to debate? If I’m not good at it, fine. I’ll keep working at it and get better over time.

            Your statement: “Why not blog about your own experiences, and use those to show why multiple personalities don’t exist?” T, this statement clearly shows that you have not spent much, if any, time reading my work. That comment is so far off base I have no response to it.

            Your opinions regarding my work are duly noted.

            This conversation is about questioning memories. How did we get here?


          • Terri

             /  04/21/2011

            Jeanette, please re-read my previous comment and see where the quotation marks start and finish. This indicates the quote taken from Holly Gray’s post as the proof you wanted that Holly said you used others works inappropriately. You asked for such proof in your comment to me.

            I can’t debate Holly’s words, as they are not my own. If you have issue with them, I suggest you go back to Holly’s blog and take them up with her. I’ve indicated where the quote comes from, so it will be easy to respond.

            My name is Terri, not T.


          • Thank you Terri.


  4. Removed by request.



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