Online Support Group’s Introduction to Virtual Worlds

If you run a healthcare support group online (be that a message board, forum, IRC,  etc…)  and are wondering about jumping into virtual worlds, I hope the following paper is helpful.

If you are running a face to face healthcare support group and wonder about doing so in a virtual world, this paper may also be helpful.  However, there are some general things about online support I do not address.

If you are looking for an introduction to the basics of Second Life, this is really not the paper for you.  But if you want to know how groups function without going into Second Life, this paper may be a good start.

Healthcare Support Groups in Online Virtual Worlds (Oct, 2009 v.5, 15 page pdf)

If you have suggestions for this paper, please drop me a line, or add your comment below.  I’ve released this under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license and only want it to make it as useful as possible.

**Update Oct 1, 2009-

Added note about GreenLife’s viewer “Emerald” with chat encryption.

**Update Jan 6, 2008-

Added new Linden Lab group features, link to case study, top issues, and more-

**Update Oct, 2007-

Thanks for all the suggestions. I’ve included some at this time, including a list of the 16 most popular healthcare support groups.

About John

Interested in how information intersects daily life, technology, and art. Collaboration specialist, working in social and collaborative media. Biomedical Informaticist, focusing on patient/patient, patient/provider communication.
This entry was posted in Collaboration / Community, Medical Informatics. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Online Support Group’s Introduction to Virtual Worlds

  1. Niela Miller says:

    Hi, in SL I am known as Marly Milena. I run all sorts of workshops and have been doing support groups for the transgender community (I am not TG but that was a specialty of mine and I wrote a book for counselors called Counseling in Genderland). I have found SL to be a really good place to do these support groups and am now training half a dozen people from the trans community to be support group facilitators.

  2. John says:

    Glad to hear SL is working well for you and that you are getting more people available to help. While SL is not for everyone, exploring transgender issues may be a great example of what does work in SL.

    Feel free to pass along my paper if you find it useful, and if not, do let me know if I can change anything.

  3. John says:


    Looks like your organization is just the sort of folks that might be interested in this. Hope you find it helpful!

    If not, feel free to let me know.

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  5. Elena says:

    You paper is very practical with some definitions which is useful for people like me who try to explain the other health care professionals the benefits of communication in virtual words. I would add more about barriers to participation and emphasize the options how to overcome these barriers ( training opportunities, step by step outline how the patents groups, health services providers groups, med societies, etc. have set up their presence in SL). I think, the case studies ( a couple of examples) could help. Good luck!

  6. John says:

    Great advice, Elena. I was thinking some case studies, or just plain old stories, would go a long way to help people understand.

    Your advice about barriers and how to overcome them is well taken.

    I will be updating this doc periodically, and will add your suggestions….many thanks.

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  8. Marymac Dougall says:

    This paper came just in time. I am meeting Monday or Tuesday with the marketing department of the organization I work for, Breast Cancer Network of Strength, to come up with a plan for conducting support group meetings in Second Life. Most of these people have no clue about Second Life and the way things run there. They don’t understand about transactions that we engage in for the sake of the economy nor do they have a good understanding of objects, ownership, communication, etc. This will go a long way to explain things to them so we can get on with getting the groups going. October is a special month for us and we need to cut to the chase for the sake of those out there needing the support we offer. It is also prime time for us to take advantage of the support others offer the organization but again, my employer doesn’t have enough of a clue there.

    Thanks again.

  9. John says:

    Super, Marymac, that’s why I put the paper out, so glad I could help. There have been some great suggestions for the paper, so I will be updating it in a week or so.

    As you may know, there are many cancer groups in SL already. Seems like it is a good fit. There is a Network of Strength group and also a Friends of Y-ME group in SL already.

    Feel free to let me know if I can be of further assistance.

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  11. John says:

    FYI: Updated the paper, additional comments always welcome!

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