Harvard study: the role of moderators in online mental health communities
March 21 2023
- Online communities that provide a space for supportive peer interaction can deliver real well-being benefits but supervision and moderation by highly trained professionals are essential for safety.
- Togetherall moderators (known as ‘Wall Guides’) play a committed and proactive role not only in their duty of care to manage risk, but also to actively shape the community and the lives of the people in the community.
- The role of the professional moderator in online communities is critical and offers a best practice model for successful online peer support.
About the study
Online communities are rapidly gaining popularity as an answer to rising demands and increasing strain on existing, traditional mental health services, giving more opportunities for people to access support when they want to in an anonymous and safe way at any time of day or night. With a lack of regulation in the space, a lot of these communities operate without moderation, leaving vulnerable users at risk.
Harvard University has published a study, in collaboration with Togetherall, on the role that moderators play in creating healthy online spaces and their ability to realise the benefits of digital peer support while minimising risks to users.
Harvard University interviewed 18 of Togetherall’s moderators (Wall Guides), all of whom are licensed mental health professionals and members of bodies such as the BACP. The interviews covered their experiences in overseeing the platform, and their key responsibilities, positive interactions with members, and responding to challenges.
The data sets were then analysed qualitatively to highlight particular themes and trends that emerged from the Wall Guides’ responses.
Harvard University found that Wall Guides ensure the continuity and safety of the community on the platform, protecting member anonymity, and identifying and supporting in cases where members may be in crisis.
‘Togetherall Wall Guides create a highly moderated safe platform in which vulnerable help-seekers can receive support in a healthy online environment where the potential for deleterious interactions is minimised’.
The study also highlighted that moderators can be a ‘shaping force’ in online peer support communities, helping to cultivate a culture of therapeutic behaviour, like the giving of empathy and support, shared learning, and reminders of common human experiences.
Head to the Springer website to read the full study.
Find out more
Togetherall is an evidence-driven, social impact business. With our research programme, we aim to contribute to the field of digital mental health and help ensure we’re delivering the best possible service to people who use our platform.
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