Belonging in Practice: Using Communities of Practice Theory to Understand Support Groups

Kathryn E. Anthony, Carrie E. Reif-Stice, Joel O. Iverson, Steven J. Venette

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Social support groups provide both a space for knowledge management and a means to connect with others by developing face-to-face and online communities. This chapter argues that the body of scholarship regarding communities of practice (CoPs) can be used as a framework to explain how communication functions in support groups. It examines how communication constitutes community among people who have ostomy appliances and their supporters. The chapter explores the established research regarding support groups. It presents the concepts within CoP scholarship and explains its history as an applied theory. The chapter describes ostomy support groups as a specific example. It provides theoretical and practical implications for applied research on support groups and general use of CoP theory. When facing health-related concerns, individuals often turn to either relational dyads or social networks to seek social support. CoPs have been articulated as an alternative to cognitive approaches to explain learning as a social process.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Applied Communication Research
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1: Volume 2
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781119399926
ISBN (Print)9781119399858
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


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