In recent years, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have changed our modus vivendi in many aspects.
Who was going to tell us how our way of communicating with the rest of the world, including ourselves, would change through these new technologies?
In the field of psychology and health, it is obvious that ICTs have given an unexpected turn to the traditional way in which we treated our ailments, physical, psychological or both, although years ago “associationism” did so, and today Today, there are innumerable associations, federations, foundations, around various pathologies, syndromes, etc. but in this article where I would like us to reflect on the way these new technologies have done and will continue to do so, since given the reality in which we are immersed, we are at a point of no return. Above all I am referring to the field of “virtual communities”.
Is the forum possible as therapy?
The subject under discussion is the forum as a therapeutic tool, based on a biopsychosocial model and encompassing the concepts of HEALTH 2.0, PSYCHOLOGY 2.0, and more specifically within the field of psycho-oncology.
What real resources do we have as citizens, patients, family members and / or professionals in the matter of cancer and its coping through the available ICTs?
“The new information and communication technologies can complement the care work of health centers and health professionals, especially in so-called developing countries. They encourage patients to be better informed and to adopt a more active and autonomous role in the face of their clinical pathology ”, Inmaculada Grau- Fòrum Clínic.
What do we understand as a forum?
“A group of people who share a concern, a set of problems or a common interest about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area through continuous interaction”, Barry Wellman- Sociologist.
That is to say, a space for virtual participation, but at the same time real, about a specific topic and based on a few minimum rules and elements that define it: Objective, Identity, Reward / Recognition, Norms, Environment, Hierarchy and commitment.
What do we understand as therapy?
Therapy (θεραπεία) = Treat, serve, as a channel, as a medium For what? In order to HEAL.
This was traditionally done by shamans, healers and later doctors aided by the technology of each era, now, in this century, Can we raise a therapy, a medical and psychological service through our new information and communication technologies communication?
Social identity theory (Hovland, 1953). This theory is based on the influence exerted by the group over its members and vice versa, through three stages:
● Social categorization
● Social identification
● Social comparison
Do we identify socially with the communities virtual / forums in which we register, in this case in the field of HEALTH 2.0? If so, in what way? Is it Is this therapeutic influence possible? How?
In the 21st century, new ICTs have appeared and also new diseases that professionals try to alleviate. In the case of Cancer, It is one of the diseases that has caused the most impact in recent decades. The uncertainty about its origin and its increasing incidence make it a dreaded ailment, generating depression and anxiety.
Studies in this regard determine that affect and social support are variables that negatively correlate with depression (Robles, Morales, Jiménez & Morales, 2009). That is, the greater the support networks, the lower the prevalence rate of anxious pictures.
In recent years, support virtual communities (CVdA) have experienced strong growth. A study of Suriá and Beléndez * found 913 forums and 249 support groups for 20 different diseases.
It is in these CVDA that empathy, communication and emotional support emerge (Sullivan 2003). All these positive characteristics serve a function therapy. There are many studies carried out in this regard ** and the results obtained are that the participation in the support forums slightly increases subjective psychological well-being.
When analyzing the survey, we observed that cancer patients who participate in the forums of the virtual communities They experience a relief, feeling supported by the rest of users, including professionals, and more since the COVID 19 pandemic began, where many people have been able to feel more alone, either because they cannot see their loved ones so much or because or They can attend regular activities of their associations as they have been doing before.
In the case of cancer patients who use forums in virtual environments, they have a better score in the dimensions of self-acceptance, positive relationships, autonomy, mastery of the environment, personal growth and purpose in life than patients who do not use this tool.
Although participation in forums does NOT replace the concept of therapy, as we know it today, it does have therapeutic effects to the extent that users create a virtual support network that complements your support system.
The resolution of doubts by professionals or relief are tools that make the levels of stress and anxiety decrease, and therefore, increase subjective well-being. We can conclude that, participation in virtual environments supportive is positive for cancer patients and can have therapeutic effects as long as it is used as support net.
Areste Vilanova, V. (2004) Introduction to psychooncology. FMC-Continuing Medical Education in Primary Care, 11 (5), 229-237Basagoiti, I. (2009) Health 2.0: an opportunity for direct information to the patient. RevistaeSalud. Com, 5 (19). Hovland, CI, Janis, IL, & Kelley, HH (1953). Communication and persuasion; psychological studies of opinion change. Mate, J., Sirgo, A., Mateo, D., Bayes, R., Bernaus, M., Casas, C.,… & Viel, S. (2009). Development and proposal of an instrument for the detection of emotional distress in patients at the end of life. Psicooncología, 6 (2), 507-518 ** Robles, R., Morales, M., Jimenez, LM, Morales, J. (2009). Depression in women with breast cancer: the role of affectivity and social support. Psychooncology, 6 (1), 191-201. Ryff, CD (1989). Happiness is everything: or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069-1081 Ryff, CD and Keyes, C. (1995) The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719-727. Suria, R. and Belendez, M. (2011) Virtual support groups dedicated to health problems: study of their typology and analysis of their representativeness. Annals of Psychology, 27, 210-220 *