One of my passions is group-work. Last February, I was facilitating a Woman I Am weekend renewal retreat in Canada with an amazing group of 18 women, all on their own recovery journey. It was a weekend full of connection, empowerment and celebration, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity. It was particularly intimate because all of the participants stayed together in a retreat facility, getting to know one another and sharing meals together. I was eagerly looking forward to the next retreat.
Shortly after I flew home from Canada, the pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt. With it came numerous changes to our lives. One of the biggest has been the transition from in-person interactions to virtual ones. Many of us are attending work meetings, school, doctor appointments or 12-step meetings via Zoom, Skype or Google. For some, the transition went smoothly. For others, it can prove frustrating and inconvenient.
As a group facilitator, I was at a loss. There is so much gained from interactions in group that can only happen in-person. But I was willing to give it a virtual try, and began to run 6 week groups for women in recovery over zoom.
Attending group on-line may be more convenient for some, but it can also be distracting. I struggled with how to create an on-line space where participants could be fully present and engaged. As I tried to get comfortable with facilitating over zoom, I quickly learned that there are certain steps people can take to create a calming space that enhances the group experience.
Before each one of my session, participants are asked to take in their surroundings and evaluate their external environment by reviewing the following:
Where will you be seated as we “zoom” with each other?
Does the space feel comforting? If not, what can you do to make it feel comforting?
Do you have enough privacy?
Is the lighting gentle yet bright enough for you to be seen?
The internal environment we bring to a group is just as important. It is normal to feel nervous and uncomfortable when first engaging in a group process. Taking 5 to 10 minutes prior to the session to do some deep breathing can be beneficial. I ask group members to take notice of how they feel as they prepare for this journey with each other.
In creating space, it's the little things that count. A soft blanket. Dimmed lights. A lit candle. Gentle music. Deep breaths. Most importantly, being present to yourself as you create an environment of your choice.