Social Media as Therapy: Help at Our Fingertips

“So today marks my year. I was lost trying to navigate my injury… In research I found this group. It changed the direction of my healing. Helped me realize I’m in charge of my recovery… I’m where I am because my choices and help from family like you. I’ve handed my heart and held others’ here. Seen love handed freely, cry for you, and spent hours on my knees asking for healing in your journeys… faces unseen, life’s so different you have carried me thru some really scary moments. Thankful, blessed, it’s a privilege to call this group ‘family.’ Thank You!” – Todd Binder, Finger and Partial Hand Amputee Peer + Support Group member.

Ask someone on the heels of a traumatic experience what they struggle with most, and they’re likely to tell you that they feel alone. They find it hard to relate to others because they don’t feel like others since their life-changing incident.

Thankfully, with the technology age, there are tools now available, resulting in advantages that could never have been imagined before. Internet-based support groups have been in existence for almost forty years, with social media-hosted forums becoming more and more prevalent. Therapists believe in its effectiveness and help us to understand why social media as therapy is so helpful and how it’s become more of an aid in healing than anyone imagined.

Whether we understand or agree with it or not, explains Family Trauma Specialist Carmen McHenry, M.A., LPC, “Feelings associated with a traumatic experience are often shame, embarrassment and guilt.” Something bad happened and they feel responsible or less-than for “allowing” it to happen. Mitch Manthey, whose middle and ring fingers were amputated in a work accident, wondered what he did wrong to have caused the accident, “Was I too close? Did I trip on something?”

Of course we all know that bad things happen to good people for no reason at all, but when you’re traumatized and you’re reflecting on the steps leading to your current situation, you’re hard on yourself. We all are. But those feelings are difficult to share with others, even those surrounding us with love and care and understanding. Even if we wanted to, we don’t always feel comfortable sharing those emotions with our loved ones because we know how much they love us and we don’t want to put more upon them; we don’t want them to worry.

And that’s where social media comes in as an effective outlet and an incredible source for information you want, information you need. And because there’s some level of anonymity in online interactions, many times we feel more comfortable asking hard or weird questions. People don’t know us, they don’t love us and they don’t REALLY have a stake in our lives so we feel free to say almost anything. And we do.

McHenry has seen first-hand, countless times over her 21 years as a therapist, the power of groupthink in a social media support group setting.

“I refer my patients to external resources like Facebook support groups frequently.” she details. “I have found that it helps them to feel validated in what ever feelings they’re coping with, feelings that I, as someone who hasn’t been through their exact situation, can’t validate on the level that those who have can.”

Interestingly, “The rarer the trauma is,” explains McHenry, “the more isolated the victim feels.” It makes sense, right? Something has happened to you that hasn’t happened to anyone close to you, so you feel outside the norm and you’re dealing with issues no one can relate to. And even if something similar has happened, your situation is unique and your challenges (serious, real-life challenges) are unique. But what social media has done is make those traumas less “rare” because people in similar situations are available and in abundance when the pool of potential like-minded people includes the entire globe (give or take), and at all hours of the day or night.

Finger and Partial Hand Amputee Peer + Support Group member Tanya explains it this way: “This was where I could go to for what (my family) couldn’t give me, which was understanding of what I was dealing with.”

Nothing warms the heart quite like seeing the interactions when someone still in disbelief and awe over their situation enter an online group and the people there waiting to immediately comfort, nurture and soothe them. They offer an attentive ear, they offer facts, humor, and through their positive outlook, they offer hope. “You’re in the right place,” they’ll say, “we understand and we’re here to help.” And they do.

From questions about the healing process, pain management, therapy, relationships, insurance, and how to keep a positive outlook, group members take new members into the fold with patience, understanding and answers. Rarely are questions asked not relatable to someone else in the group, however assumingly unusual the question or concern. “After my injury, I was only understood in this one place,” says Vanessa, Finger and Partial Hand Amputee Peer + Support Group member. And it’s not just the amputees who come for support, advice and community. Supportive family members find their way in too. So many moms, spouses and caring friends and family make their way into the group in search of tools they can use to help their loved ones. They seek out information on effective communication, product recommendations or just to commune with people who will simply understand and listen.

The beautiful thing about these groups, we’ve learned, is that many people who initially came for help themselves stay engaged in order to help others, folks who are just beginning their healing process. Helping others becomes a potentially unexpected part of their healing. What better way to make your injury, illness or new situation mean something than to use it to help others get through it?

At the end of the day, the most important information that the “old timers” in a social media support group can share with newbies is this: life goes on. The unknown aspects of it are scary and sometimes painful, but there is life beyond what happened, life beyond the loss. Even though their experience and counsel is important, the most important thing about their participation is that they are living proof that life goes on and that at some point, you will be able to see beyond your situation to focus on something else, like returning to work or helping others.

We’re quite lucky to be living in a time that has this technology available to us, technology that allows us our solitude while availing us to a literal world of information at our fingertips. It brings us close to people who understand our unique situation and want only to help make our journey easier. And they do that because they want to and because it makes them feel good, and helps them to heal from their own situations. The ability to “surround” ourselves with people who understand our current position while maintaining distance and anonymity is a gift that the generations before us didn’t benefit from. For that reason alone we are so, incredibly lucky.

The Finger and Partial Hand amputee Peer + Support Group was initiated to provide a space for amputees, family members, caregivers, hand therapists, nurses, prosthetists, billing specialists, and those pursuing a career in O&P to have a place to share and to learn about the challenges associated with finger and partial hand loss. If you or someone you know could benefit, please join us.

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Jeanie McGarvey | Advocate

Jeanie is based out of Ohio where she wears four PIPDrivers, three MCPDrivers, and one ThumbDriver.

Read her story here.

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Jaime Perkins | Ambassador

Jaime Perkins injured four of his fingers while working with a jointer in his workshop in 2020. A well-respected builder, he joins Naked Prosthetics with his own audience of over 606,000 YouTube channel subscribers for Perkins Builder Brothers, a company started by his architect father, that he shares with his brother, Erik. Jaime joined as a NPChampion Ambassador after experiencing for himself the functionality afforded by the MCPDrivers. Jaime lives in North Carolina with his wife Jaime and their three children.

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Matt Finney | Ambassador

At age 36, Matt lost several digits due to vascular occlusion. After a several-year struggle that led him down a dark and troubled path, Matt found his way to Naked Prosthetics to become the first to wear each of the three custom, body-driven devices together: one PIPDriverTM, one MCPDriverTM, and one ThumbDriverTM. Because of his directness and candor, Matt has become a popular addition to conferences and speaking engagements that Naked Prosthetics participates in. Matt now owns his own successful concrete finishing business, something he says wouldn’t have been possible without the technology behind his devices.

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Moises Aramburo | Ambassador

Moises spends his time traveling between California and Mexico. In the Summer of 2012, Moises and his friend took their truck out after a tropical storm in Mexico to assess the local damage. While towing a vehicle stuck in the flood, they decided to try something new – boogie boarding on the flooded streets. An accident with the rope caused four of his fingers on his right hand to be torn off. Moises wears a four-digit GripLock finger with socketing from the Ossur team.

GLF Designed + Manufactured by Naked Prosthetics. Socket Fabrication by Hanger Clinic and Össur.

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Natasha Baggett | Ambassador

Natasha lost two of her fingers to a woodworking accident at home in 2019. A beef and poultry farmer, artist, and mother to five girls, Natasha wears two of our MCPDrivers and was a beta tester for our Conductive Tip and Rose Gold finish. Since her accident, she has devoted much of her time and energy to the amputee community, sharing her journey and helping other amputees find acceptance and purpose from within. For those reasons and more, Natasha is a welcome addition to the NPChampion Ambassador family and a warm and engaging advocate for the amputee community.

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Nick Armstrong | Ambassador

As a beta tester for Naked Prosthetics, Nick Armstrong was instrumental in the development of the MCPDriver. At the time Nick suffered a workplace injury in 2012 that left him with amputations on five of his fingers, prosthetic options that would allow him to get back to work as a welder and auto mechanic and back to taking care of his farm didn’t exist. In 2015 Naked Prosthetics began testing the MCPDriver, and Nick provided the necessary real-life testing and feedback to assure the devices’ performance in harsh environments. Nick lives in Illinois and speaks alongside NP regularly to groups about his story and the functionality and confidence his devices provide.

Trevor Thibodeux | Ambassador

Born and raised in Louisiana, Trevor is a calm soul with a southern charm that draws you in. Trevor’s left hand was injured on the job in late 2020, repairing a machine that feeds, cuts, and seals velcro. While fixing the machine the operator started up the machine and the blade took his middle and ring finger, cutting the tendon on his index finger, and crushing his pinkie. As our newest NPChampion Ambassador, he wears two MCPDrivers and is motivated by the thought of helping someone like himself no longer be afraid of life.

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Ashley Umbaugh | Advocate

A mother to two young children, it is important for her to not miss a thing. Outdoor enthusiast and whim taker, Ashley, was trying something new, riding a motorcycle. In the Summer of 2021 she joined her husband on the road when she lost control of the bike. In an attempt to save her leg from being crushed, she threw her hand to rest on the band which sucked her fingers into the sprocket and amputated her middle finger. Her device has given her more than function, it has given her hope. With the help of her MCPDriver, she wants to spread hope to everyone in this community.

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John Powers | Advocate

John is an artist based out of New York. He wears one ThumbDriver and one MCPDriver.

Read his story here.

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Kenneth Brunke | Advocate

Father of four, Marine Corps Veteran, and woodworker, Ken, lost his left thumb, index finger, ring and pinkie finger in a table saw accident mid 2021. Ken’s three-digit MCPDriver and ThumbDriver has allowed him to turn his woodworking skills from a hobby into a full business. His unabashed willingness to share his story through humor and charm are a welcome addition to the NPChampions program.

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Michael Stanton | Advocate

Michael brings energy and positivity to every conversation he has and is sure to leave you with a smile. A splinter was all it took. Early 2019 Michael was working when a small piece of wood lodged itself into his hand. Unfortunately, after removing it the wound became infected and required his right thumb to be amputated. With the help of his ThumbDriver, Michael hasn’t let this slow him down!

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Stephanie Brassard | Advocate

Stephanie lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and is passionate about inspiring other amputees to know that losing fingers isn’t the end and that they can overcome challenges that they may face. Self proclaimed “accident prone” sawmill worker and physical trainer, Stephanie, wasn’t surprised when she crushed her fingers. In November, 2019 she went to grease a machine when she noticed it was still on. Before she could pull away it had grabbed onto her hand, removing her left thumb and pointer finger. Stephanie wears one MCPDriver and a ThumbDriver. She wants to help inspire other amputees to know that losing fingers is not the end and that they too can overcome challenges.

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Tammy Stolle | Advocate

Tammy is a court reporter in South Dakota and wears one MCPDriver.

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Alycia Kerrigan-Mize | Agent

College student and competitive swimmer Alycia lost a majority of her pinkie finger in an accident at only 15 years old. With the use of her PIPDriver, she’s rediscovered her confidence and uses her platforms to share her story and inspire others.

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John Hillard | Agent

Retired Navy Veteran, John is settled in Noblesville, Indiana. After losing his thumb in a circular saw accident, he regained functionality with his ThumbDriver and is back to creating beautiful woodworking pieces.

John Thompson | Agent

John wears two MCPDrivers. Born and raised in Brandon, Mississippi, he lives with his wife and daughter and enjoys staying active outdoors.

Nelisiwe Nxumalo | Agent

Nelisiwe wears two MCPDrivers. An adventurous and captivating woman, she travels the world sharing snaps along the way.

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Darrel Comeau | Ambassador

Darrel joins us from Alberta, Canada after losing much of his index finger in a workplace accident late in 2017. He was checking a fit up for one of his crew members when an improperly tacked steel beam dropped on his finger. A jack of many trades, Darrel is not only a construction site foreman but also a gifted photographer. He wears an MCPDriver. As some of his biggest fans, Naked Prosthetics looks forward to highlighting his work and his story.

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