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Creating Space

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.

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