Friday, February 27, 2009

A Caring Souls Forum That Did Not Care To Tell Its Users It Was Closing Down


The Strange Story Of
The Caring Souls Forum

which broke down suddenly

Some mental health Users in the UK contacted UserWatch regarding the sudden apparent demise of the Caring Souls Forum .. (see here)

From what UserWatch can gather the Forum started with good intentions and existed for 11 months up till a few days ago and it gained a following of people (703) who wanted to talk about human difficulties , pain and life ..Some had dissociative disorders and others had eating disorders and there were cases of people trying to come to terms with child abuse issues.

We invite the admins of Caring Souls Forum to put their views here or elsewhere where we have links since the forum was supposed to be backed by professionals and act as responsible interface between people in therapy training , therapists , counselors and sufferers from the human condition ..

More lately apparently a female poster (no poster-names given here) opened up about some serious sexual abuse . That abuse was quite terrible and it made the counselors and helpers running the forum think again about how some people coming to the forum should be aware of the risks of opening up powerful memories and feelings .. They apparently suggested having offline help too for the poster which we have to say seems reasonable.

Two posters who contacted UserWatch anonymously claim that :

"Control and moderation went a bit too far and the poor poster who had opened up was left feeling confused about whether they should talk anymore about their life .

It was as if contrary signals were being given and the result was a growing feeling shared by a few people that the right of free speech was being undermined too . "

"Suddenly one of the admin helpers seems to have flipped and the forum went down overnight into "maintainance mode" but the admin caring forum googlemail address which is seperate from the forum functionally when you try to use it, returns as :

"no longer an email being used "

We think this is apalling . That is not care . People should have been informed about matters responsibly . "

Userwatch has seen many forums come and go and break down or not be supported . The shame of this particular case is it suddenly pulled the plug without care . No warning at all . And the people who contacted us claimed that many posters claimed they had been let down by bad therapists or bad counsellors previously in the UK and US .. Clearly this is not going to help is it ?

What a great shame - Users claimed this forum had some real quality about it ..



Anonymous said...

Caring Souls was a forum I have used regularly for a good few months now for support and listening.
The compassion and listenign I have received there has meant the world to me and I don't have words to express just how much of a lifeline it has been.
What has happened is devestating and I am not sure how to handle it... Users have not been informed as to what is going on... All we know is that we cannot access out posts.
This has been very distressing and I can honestly say that I will never ever trust something like this again.
One of the admins went from being very encouraging and very empathic to being abusive and hurtful.
I am left reeling.
The exercise of "finding my voice", as though not enough of an agony in itself, has left nothing in me but a feeling of powerlessness and desperation.
Caring Souls was caring, deeply so... but the way in which it has all ended is nothing short of irresponsible and unethical.
SR... I am so sorry....

PatientGuard said...

We won't be letting this go . This is so wrong and the people who admined Caring Souls Forum need to account properly for this ..

A proper healing at best needs to take place . UserWatch has seen material from the forum and its our observation so far that the keys of overall control of the functionality of the forum may have been in too few hands ..

703 members and vulnerable active members have been seriously let down and even hurt by this ..

Since the forum did operate as an apparent safe asylum for many refugees of the state systems both in the US and UK we feel these matters need pursuing ..


Silvis said...

Yes its not good KK what has happened - its quite wrong unethical and painful ..

I can survive it ... I have other resources, but some people on Caring Souls Forum were very rawly vulnerable ... This will surely set them back

Anonymous said...

SR and KK....How tragic the way it ended. I had already made a personal decision to walk away, as the style of "support" by the admins was not healthy for me. With that being said,shutting the site down without any notice or warning so people could exchange emails (etc) was beyond unethical and unprofessional. So much for worrying about maintaining a standard level of care and responsibility as professionals - that they so often boasted about exhibiting. i feel a deep sense of sadness and guilt for all this mess and am left more confused and hesitant about the entire counseling profession. whatever trust i had begun to develop is long gone, again. Has certainly taught me that talking does not bring good things. Should have remained silent.

i will keep you both, SR and KK, in my heart and thoughts. Keep sailing away SR!! I'll be tagging along behind you... praying for peaceful seas!!


Silvis said...

Hiya Kisme

I think the manner of shutting down the forum shows something pretty catastrophic happened at the admin end.

What amazed me was the lack of care and it duplicated sudden withdrawal of support that even the Forum Support person had talked about as part of their dramatic experiences ...

Now they are out of contact because the email they gave does not answer .

So what about people's stuff they have written ? What about if they want it removed and to know its been removed since if the Forum is closed but is in "maintainance mode" the material still exists ..

SR xx

Anonymous said...

Sweet SR... Yes, makes no sense. I would think people would have been given time to copy their stuff should they wish to keep it. Many people had made some amazing journeys but now have no access to review that in the future - or remove it to ease their own minds that it's not floating out there in the great space of the web. I'm thankful i requested my threads to be deleted. And, yes, that was my first thought... that this shocking end mirrored the incident the admin shared with her own ther. I would have thought that being in the profession, she would have an understanding of the implications or having a support system stripped away so suddenly without any explanation. hoping you're able to get your threads for your keeping... you're in my thoughts my friend. take gentle care... Kisme

Anonymous said...

I would like to say thank you for sending me this link. It is nice to be able to have a place to share my final thoughts about Caring Souls and the tragedy of its abrupt shut down. I was a member of this site since July, and I must say that I am in shock this has come about as I strongly believe that the care and concern shown by Fran and Souls prior to this has been supportive and sincere. Right now, I have a few things to do and do not have the time to post all of my thoughts, however, I will most certainly return here later today to share and enable my own closure process to move forward. Again, thank you for this link, and SR, I am so happy to hear from you!!!!

melissa AKA ebmisfit

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sending me this link. It is nice to have a place to come and share my final thoughts about Caring Souls and the tragedy of its abrupt ending. As a long time member, I am a bit torn between my shock int what has happened and my belief that the care and concern shown by Fran and Souls have always carried sincerity and good intention. That being said, I believe this has left all involved, including the administration, much pain and heartache.

I have more to say, but my time now is short, so I will return later and allow my voice to speak.
Again, thank you for sending me this link, ans SR, I am so happy to hear from you!

Much respect to all,

Melissa AKA ebmisfit

Melissa said...

Thank you for sending me this link. It is nice to have a place to share my final thoughts about Caring Souls and the tragedy of its abrupt ending. As a "long-time" member, I am torn between my belief the the care and concern shown by Fran and Souls has been sincere and good intended, and my shock about how these current happenings have been handled. I strongly believe that the pain and current mourning that has been put into play is being felt by everyone involved, including the administration. Right now, I am a bit short on time, but I will return later, share my final opinions, and enable my mourning process to move forward. Again, thank you for the link. So, so glad to hear from you Silvis!!!

Respect to all,

Melissa AKA ebmisfit

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sending me this link.
It is nice to have a place to share my final thoughts about Caring Souls and the tragedy of its abrupt shut down. As a 'long-time' member, I am torn between my shock and my belief that the love shown by both Fran and Souls was sincere and good intended. I do not feel Willow ever contributed much to justify calling her a moderator, and appeared to offer little support to her own fellow staff members who were obviously overwhelmed. I believe this event has caused great pain and heartache for all involved, including the administration. I can certainly understand the need for them to back off and perhaps suspend things briefly as the "regrouped", however, to completely shut things down in the manner they chose is shamefully unethical, and again, I can only say I am beyond stunned. I do not believe this had anything to do with the members, but was indeed the result of something catastrophic among the staff members. I will be able to mourn my losses and recover, however, there are many members that will retain these deep wounds for many years to come.

I am short on time, but will return to this link to share my final opinions so that my mouring process can continue to move forward. Again, thank you for this link, and SR, I am so happy to hear from you!!! Thousands of hugs if still okay!!!

Respect to all,
Melissa AKA ebmisfit

Eleison said...

Personally, I would at least like to copy some of what I wrote, because, well, it's personal to me, like a journal. It documents my journey.
I know now to keep back up copies of anything important I post online.

I can understand the different sides to people's responses, and how mis-connection seems to be at the root of the whole problem with what happened.

The trouble is with how insecure it feels - "is the forum coming back, or is it not?"
I think at least we're entitled to a mass email explaining simply what decision is being made, or a notice on the site. That's what I'd do.

But I'm not them. And we can only hope for the best.

I am sad to lose the forum - if indeed it is closing completely. [even if not, then building connections and community again could be a fragile journey]. There are few places online where one can speak freely from a psychodynamic therapy perspective. In fact CS was one of the only places where one could do this honestly and openly and be respected.
I'm certainly thinking that I'd like to be part of creating a new psychodynamic based forum should CS not come back. If anyone's interested, email me on my ourwrites forum email -


Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone, and I wish I had the foresight to delete everything I wrote there before leaving that place the last time I was there.

Anonymous said...

"...members hve been seriously let down and EVEN HURT by this" ?
Yes... but try, 'members have been hurt and even left feeling suicidal after this'

PatientGuard said...

UserWatch is still keeping open the idea of Souls or Fran at The Caring Souls Forum explaining themselves properly - making appropriate gestures of apology and informing people what is going to happen to peoples material ...

We can only guess that something quite serious might have occured to have made a professional counsellor take the actions to close down a forum suddenly without warning ..

Time must be given for account and Fran and Souls must understand that it is being given . They would do well to make a proper gesture of making some kind of statement to help others understand why the Caring Souls Forum was suddenly brought to a halt without warning..


Anonymous said...

I must disagree with this poster :

[ Respect to all,
Melissa AKA ebmisfit.]

And these words :

[ I do not feel Willow ever contributed much to justify calling her a moderator, and appeared to offer little support to her own fellow staff members who were obviously overwhelmed.]

I beg your pardon! I don't mean to be disrespectful to you, but I don't think you are giving Willow any RESPECT with your comment.
As a member of Caring Souls from the start of the forum, before Willow became a member, before she was brought in as a moderator and even before you became a member, I need to tell you Willow was one of the most loving members in that community and she always offered loving, neutral and unbiased support to every one!
She never spoke out of tone or out of place, and always had a smiley and a hug for ALL the members!
I take offense by your characterization of her moderating role.You were NOT part of the administration team!
You were NOT privy to what went on outside or inside of the boards!
No one asked you for your input about the moderator's job!
One should NOT judge without having every fact straight and confirmed by all the people involved in any kind of situation!
During the life of the forum there were very few confrontations between members, Willow was never a part of one!
Can you say the same for yourself?
All I have left to say is
I hope everybody shows as much respect for you!


As part of the UserWatch team we expect any and all sorts of opinions to emerge as a fallout from this set of events .

Silvisrivers has developed some further information on what has happened but it does not sound good for the future of the caring souls forum .. He or patientguard will get back on this and the source of the information looks pretty solid but he's assessing it all ..

Katiek said...

I feel that it is a shame that aggressive comments left here are not 'owned' and instead left anonymously.
Each and every person at Caring Souls expressed a huge amount of respect and compassion for others. I do not think any member ever set out to hurt another.
Taking offence in an aggressive manner will only further the damage rather than heal it.
Thinking of you all

Anonymous said...

I would like toclarify to the poster who feels I have been offensive to Willow's position at Caring Souls. I will heed to your point that yes, I do not know what communications occurred between the fellow staff members at CS, but I will stand by my belief that AS A MODERATOR, Willow offered minimal to members on the board. I strongly believe that taking on such a role does indeed carry a degree of responsibility that was lacking. As for "arguments" that occurred on the forum, I did in fact stand up for my beliefs, and I will not let you insinuate that my doing so was inappropriate. I have always stood by my beliefs in a non-insulting and diplomatic manner, and I do NOT feel I was ever mean or abusive to any memnber of the forum. I also believe that Willow is a warm, sincere MEMBER of Caring Souls, however, I cannot give her credit as a moderator, as I saw nothing that entitled her to hold that position. Again, there is a level of responsibility that comes with such a postion, and I strongly believe that it was a lack of support AMONG the staff members that has led to this catastrophic breakdown. I am sorry that you have read my belief as an attack on Willow. That is not the case.
But, as a member since JULY, I will not change my view that the majority of the time, Fran was left to moderate things on her own.


PatientGuard said...

Userwatch is due to publish an update soon

PatientGuard said...

New information has been put into a new story


PatientGuard said...

You will find a moderator of The Careing Souls Forum Willow gave some information To SR and its been added in now ..

Emma8888 said...

Also as a member since July 2008, I believe that Willow was a terrific moderator and member and was always warm and loving and kept the peace. The job of moderator is a volunteer position and I think she put in an appropriate amount of time and posts and we must remember that she's been going through a lot in her life, like the rest of us. I don't believe she had anything to do with this breakdown.

I have to say that Souls, on the other hand, seemed to take posts personally and lash out at people, which is totally inappropriate for her position.

We are all human and have problems and miscommunications, but this forum should have stayed up and running, or at least they should have sent us an email as to what's happening.

Anonymous said...

A message to all from me:
I have just seen the response from Emma and I would like to say thank you... to her and everyone else that has written a comment here and other sites related to this.
This has been a devastating event for all of us...
My moderating the forum or not, has no relation whatsoever to what happened.
I am very upset and have been affected by what happened just as much as all of you have... maybe more... since I was part of the community and also aware of some things I was not able... and still will not divulge... My friends are extremely important to me and I will do whatever I can to protect them.

My heart is broken for ALL OF US... for what happened in the last days in the the forum... for all the misunderstandings and miss- communications... for what happened to Souls... for the forum's sudden closing... but most of all, my heart has been shattered by all of the incorrect assumptions and the meaningless and hurtful attacks on Fran and Souls.

In case some of you have not seen them, I have posted some comments and my explanation of what my moderating duties were in the forum were here :

In spite of my comments and explanations, and my futile efforts to help everyone going through this... my heart and my privacy have been broken again by someone.

I am tired of this c**p...
I am tired of being hurt by people having no idea of what love and friendship is all about...
I am tired of having my words being used to hurt me and others...
I am tired of being used by others...
I refuse to keep being a part of this smear campaign against Fran and Souls any longer.
I will never trust the same way I did before. I will never be able to speak from my heart again. I will still give all my love and support to anyone, but from now on my defenses will be up. A high wall of caution has been built up around myself, my heart and my friends, and it will take a great effort for someone else to get through it...
I will not allow myself to be made into a fool by anyone again...

The last few days have been extremely trying for all of us... and it is of no help for any of us to be participating in useless and meaningless discussions like the ones started on web sites like this and others without having had an opportunity to hear ALL sides of this equation.
They only serve one purpose... to work on the fragile mind of someone hurting at the moment by inciting fights and attacks when none were needed nor warranted in the first place... and by creating doubts and confusion on those minds by the use of carefully selected inflaming and triggering words...
In forum talk that is called trolling... and we had a huge troll in the midst of all of us!!... A troll taking advantage of all the information we wrote about ourselves... taking advantage of our pain and of all our compassion for each other...
Some of you were talking about the elephant in the room during some of your last discussions... well my friends... you were trying to find that elephant in one room... but we all missed the one walking freely through the whole house!..
We had a troll that registered under false pretenses... with the sole purpose of extracting information from all of us... a troll that tugged at the heartstrings of our minds and souls by telling us stories of heartbreaking hurt... and bringing our love and compassion out in force... and then hitting us the moment we stumbled.

Most of you have known me since last year, and know the way I am, and know that I will never say or do anything to purposely hurt others... what I am saying now is don't forget to read the fine print on everything... if you know what I mean...
I feel that all of us should stay together and support each other the way we have done before, while we wait for Souls to get better physically and emotionally and offer her side of the story. Only then will we be able to form an opinion and comment on it... not one minute before that...

Please, never judge anyone... especially someone that is unable to defend herself... open up your hearts and let the compassion from inside rule your actions and words for a little while... don't be afraid to do that.

I wish I could say something to all of you to offer more comfort... but this is all I can manage right now... the anger and rage I felt yesterday will not allow me to do that right now...
I miss all of you...
I wish I could turn time back and erase all the hurt from the last few days...
I wish I could bring Souls to that safe place where she was before...
I wish I could reassure every single one of you that things will be back to normal in five minutes...

Just know that you are still in my thought and in my heart.

With all my loving hugs,


I really miss my smileys!!

Fran posted this email address :

PatientGuard said...

Anon - Susan

You are ofcourse entitled to your point of view - but its rather fantastic and fanciful . But it is yours ..

UserWatch watches a number of Forums and other bodies and though the Caring Souls Forum had a special quality it was internally flawed by as Silvisrivers says a professional counsellor that served to support someone in a role she was unsuited for .

That reality and its collapse happened independently of Silvisrivers .

If you have any evidence of strange trolling behaviour then put the case properly and substantiate it with evidence and we will bring Silvisrivers here ...

PatientGuard UserWatch .