Months ago, a colleague posted a question on a Facebook group asking what means to be part of an online peer learning group.
Throughout the time this topic kept my attention and I would like to share more about my personal experience of being part of some online peer learning and artistic groups.
“Once upon a time” there was a mature girl who didn’t know the online world. When she discovered that, it was literally loved at first sight/keystroke. Prior to then her historical experience of being in a group was negative and that feeling immediately knocked to her mind becoming a hidden pre-judgment! L
There was another good reason for me to be worried, the language. My mother tongue is not English, and really, I think my language skills were not at the level I would like they would be. In contrast, other feelings played a role in my beginning to be involved in online learning: curiosity, worries, enthusiasm as well excitement to engage with something new.
My first experience of an online group was with attending an online course for becoming an online counsellor. The General certificate in online counselling skills course as it is named. I learned a lot about working in a secure and respectful space with clients and about myself. The support I had through group meetings, supervision session, forum posts and discussions made me be able to attend and complete the course.
In the beginning, it was suddenly clear that culture was not just a word, rather a whole world, but the warm environment created by tutors and students meant we were able to share our fears. At different times, we all had the same worries, however, the fact to be able to share that helped us to face it. Surely, we were able to do this because of the wise management of the course content and the posts on the forum by the tutorial team (who are really excellent).
The first learning regarded technology: we were all trying to overcome challenges associated with using it in a therapeutic context, as was the same for our clients. Like us, usually, they weren’t experts and needed encouragement as we needed a lot of support. The sharing has been a powerful tool because we understood we were not alone, and that same feelings were inside all of us. The same with our clients/supervisees, we would not be judging, but supportive about this issue.
If we were working in an international environment, the care of culture is necessary in order to comprehend the world under the words. Behind every sentence there is an entire culture that expresses itself, it was necessary to learn what my language said about me and how it could be perceived by others. The same with our clients and supervisees, we had to pay attention to words and the way they would say something. Mainly if we don’t come from the same Country, we should think of other’s culture: even we know what a feeling generally means we should proceed step by step up to reach a comprehension of what feeling is according to that client/supervisee.
The second course was about online supervision. I found a massive support, improving and learning from my colleagues! It really was a free and safe space where we all could experience our creativity and reflecting talents. This group improved my self-esteem either as a practitioner and as a person.
Speaking of points of view, the courses are managed in a way that we learned from each other’s educational background, approaches and replies to clients/supervisees as online exercises in the course forum. A brilliant instrument that enables all of us to open our minds.
The online sharing space in a course could be a peer meeting, or a forum, or a video conference. We all, by our way of being, built the space, each one by our capacity at that time; the same in the setting with clients and supervisees. As professionals, we create our space during a meeting with and together clients/supervisees, not only by our capacity, also by our weakness or failures. It is true and valuable that we should build a good working alliance, leveraging on positive aspects, but space/alliance is made mainly by the difficulties the person has got in a relationship, so, global manner has importance in order to hold a positive relationship that “cures”.
Another online space where my learning is still growing up is a specific space created for practitioners by a brother and a sister with lots of brilliant and useful online events. This space offers a very complete and useful Library to consult online and you can have your CPD from your comfort! In the library, there are so many recorded videos posted thereafter online conferences/interviews. They also manage some safe online groups for chatting and getting advice, post doubts, a bit of fun. Working online could drive a practitioner to feel alone, an online chat/space where we may find other practitioners is a wonderful and useful tool for our Self-care and for our improvement. Their management of the groups is a learning in itself for the care, warm and empathy they have.
Not last, an artistic space created by an intuitive artist K.M. By her online artistic courses and groups, I am going deeper in my consciousness to myself which is the greatest tool for us as counsellors and supervisors. The online groups she created are very helpful and supportive as well, I feel fine being in all of those for sharing our paintings, reflections and difficulties. My learning here is about how intuitive art could express by ourselves and it could also be used with clients and supervisees. We can do some further explorations about the painting with K.M. that enlighten our capacity to get in touch with ourselves, clients, supervisees.
In the end, a false myth has been destroyed, online relationships have the same strength as face-to-face ones. Feelings that went through our online work and our meetings were so powerful! And so heavy. I didn’t expect it, and my colleagues either. It was really surprising to observe how working online could bring out feelings! J
I should also add that being on the Fb chat helped me to stay grounded while I was taking my mother to her death, the last year. I was with her for hours and her body was blowing out as a candle, so she had some sleeping breaks. During those, I read and check my mobile phone: the colleagues’ posts on the chat gave me the roots for a living because there was so much to do in our life, exactly as my mum has done in all her life until a strong stroke kept her capacity out. It took me to my daily life, even I was with my mother for our last and ultimate time in this life, thanks to the online world!
References: onlinevents.co.uk and onlinetrainingfocounsellors.com