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"Truthbound" describes herself as a fun-loving person but with a weight issue that keeps her from being truly happy.

"Nawnie" said she struggles with guilt and is a compulsive shopper. She asks if she will ever have a fairy-tale ending in her life.

These women, identified by their online user names, are just two of hundreds who have joined a new Web-based therapy group to help work through their issues and change their behaviors.

The Web group, livingthetruth.com, was created by Dr. Keith Ablow, a prominent psychiatrist who encourages people to quit hiding from the emotional hurts in their past and resolve to change behaviors that result from those past pains. He believes the Internet is a place where people can connect with others in a way that promotes healing.

"People need to feel grounded," said Ablow, who has appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey" show and used to have his own televised talk show. "They need to have learned from what they have lived through in order to not reintroduce the past or not run away from it."

He considers issues, such as overeating and compulsive shopping, various behavioral "shields" that people use to keep from dealing with things in their past. But once a person stops hiding from his or her past, he or she is more able to embrace the future and eliminate baggage that may hold back progress, he said.

"I believe that revelations that can change your lives are literally just under the surface," said Ablow, who wrote the book, "Living the Truth," (Hachette Book Group, $14.99). "And when you join a community that is about truth and understanding the past, that sets things in motion."

For Dr. Nanci Klein, director of professional affairs for the Utah Psychological Association, self-help books and Web sites, such as Ablow's, can be a great tool for people to start thinking about behavioral changes. But she believes true and complete change may require more help.

"One of the challenges is that insight doesn't necessarily produce behavior change," Klein said. "I think that expecting you're going to fix yourself by purely self-examining and not in a dialogue with someone who is trained and would know how to direct and guide you — you're not going to get where you want to go."

Dr. Bruce Poulsen, a licenced psychologist and president of the Utah Psychological Association, said he is aware of several professionals who recommend self-help books or forums for patients. He is concerned when books or a Web site include promises that people can be healed by following simple steps or suggestions.

Ablow's book and Web site include moderate claims about healing, he said.

"If someone really believes they can make a change and the book proves ineffective, they may be left feeling not only discouraged about the problem they had before, but now they're discouraged that they have not been able to fix it," Poulsen said.

Ablow, for his part, said he would encourage any person to seek professional counseling if needed. But he believes people can affect change by just taking the steps advocated on his Web site and in his book.

"I believe that revelations that can change your life are literally just under the surface, and resolving you're going to look is a big part of the journey," Ablow said. "And when you join a community that is about the truth and understanding the past, that sets things in motion."

At present, livingthetruth.com is free to the public. Any person can sign up to be part of message boards and group discussions by creating an account with user name and password. Little personal information is required to set up the account, although users are encouraged to explain why they joined the group.


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