Success of a Cultural-Based, Virtual Peer Support Group During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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The initial aim of the Compassionate Home, Action Together (CHATogether) group was to use theater vignettes to promote emotional wellness in Asian American families.

The following article is a part of conference coverage from the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting 2021, held virtually from May 1 to 3, 2021. The team at Psychiatry Advisor will be reporting on the latest news and research conducted by leading experts in psychiatry. Check back for more from the APA 2021.


A cultural-based peer support group effectively provided support during the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings were presented during the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting held virtually May 1 to 3, 2021.

Researchers from the Yale Child Study Center launched the Compassionate Home, Action Together (CHATogether) program, which was aimed at fostering emotional wellness among Asian American families by using theater vignettes. The group met virtually every week. CHATogether sessions began with personal check-ins followed by activities aimed at performing positive actions affecting the Asian American community.

The participants created skits based on their own familial internal conflicts that addressed such topics as the COVID-19 pandemic, cross-cultural challenges unique to Asian American families, the Black Lives Matter movement, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) conflicts.

The goal of the CHATogether program was to form a social network of individuals who had similar experiences and challenges. With time, the CHATogether members could empower one another and provide hope and empathy.

To assess the success of the CHATogether program, the 10 participants were interviewed. The investigators identified 4 major themes.

  • The CHATogether participants felt the program provided a safe and supportive environment that fostered a feeling of belonging. The members said they had strong bonds between each other, which encouraged members to be engaging.
  • The weekly scheduled meetings provided a reliable structure allowing members to feel a sense of control during the uncertainty associated with COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • The virtual design of the program fostered a mindset of growth and cognitive flexibility.
  • The CHATogether program promoted healthy coping skills via altruism and sublimation.

This study was limited by its small scope and it remains unclear whether similar programs would be successful outside the Asian American community or among larger groups.

The study authors concluded that a cultural-based community support group effectively engaged participants by providing a sense of belonging and community during the COVID-19 pandemic. They added, “The future direction includes investigating the validity and effectiveness of this model, as well as expanding into bigger…groups and other minority communities.”

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Yuen E, Song JE, Lee A, Vigneron JG, Sust S. CHATogether: A cultural based peer support group during COVID-19 Pandemic. Presented at: APA annual meeting May 1-3, 2021. Abstract/Poster 4145