Building a Solid Recovery Team: Virtual or In-Person?
Without safety, there is not vulnerability, and without vulnerability, we do not experience transformation.
- Dr. Greg and Beth Miller
MDIV, DMIN; MA
So much has changed since the height of the pandemic. We are just now starting to understand the shifts that have occurred, and one of the biggest changes is in how we can receive emotional care and support. Telehealth is much more widely available and is likely here to stay. We started offering virtual groups and individual appointments 13 years ago when we began at Faithful & True (remember Skype?!).
Typically, we would meet with the men and women who came to the workshop who did not have resources back home. We saw the benefit of connecting to people around the country and world using technology. Beth began offering groups to women who were reaching out to Faithful & True, and Greg soon followed creating groups for men. We were exploring a new path. Now, there has been a significant shift towards virtual support and psychoeducation. How do you determine what resources are best for you since both in-person and virtual support have benefits and challenges?
The importance of In-Person
It’s tough to beat the experience of being in-person when doing emotional work. When there is an opportunity to gather with safe people and resources, we encourage people to participate in-person. That is why Faithful & True offers groups, individual appointments, and our workshops in-person. We see the benefit of gathering with others who are on the same journey and experiencing similar struggles.
The participants at the Journey Workshops are encouraged by hallway conversations and processing around the table at meals. One of the great advantages of our in-person workshops is that a participant not only receives helpful information and education, but he or she is able to have interactions with others and designated time for direct care where a person can be heard in his or her story and a trained facilitator can respond.
While it can be especially vulnerable to attend a group or a workshop (especially if you don’t know anyone else), the value of feeling seen and known is often substantial when we gather face to face. Even if some of a person’s recovery work is virtual, attending an in-person intensive workshop or group can be a significant cornerstone of building a healthy recovery program.
The Effectiveness of Virtual Our team also sees the power and effectiveness of an online experience. One of the strangely wrapped gifts of the pandemic is that the therapeutic community at large has discovered just how valuable virtual sessions, groups, and workshops can be. The clinicians at Faithful & True see individual clients and lead groups virtually. Many clients have experienced the power of community and connection – and the past few years have taught us that virtual connections are quite effective.
Though there are limitations, men and women across the country and world have experienced healing and transformation by gathering around a screen with others. A virtual experience works well for those who travel regularly and need to participate in a group or appointment from any location. Virtual support is also helpful when other resources are not locally available or easily accessible, or a greater sense of confidentiality is needed.
One of the downsides to virtual connection is the absence of a hug or pat on the back from a fellow group member. Yet one of our women’s Zoom support groups created their own symbol for a “virtual” hug – and they end their group with one each week. Virtual experiences invite creativity for sure. Other resources that are becoming more prevalent are virtual conferences, webinars, seminars, or podcasts that can be listened to or viewed. Many of our staff enjoy teaching in all the afore mentioned venues where a participant can receive helpful information from various speakers by watching a screen or listening on their phone. We believe this can be a great benefit for someone when the main desire is to be educated and encouraged. By their nature, these are one-way experiences that don’t allow for interactions between participants as well as the possibility of direct care. While that can still be quite helpful, we’ve got to make sure our recovery team also involves people and places where we are seen and heard.
When someone is considering their options, it’s helpful to create a healing plan that involves a healthy mix of these resources. It is essential that somewhere in a person’s recovery plan there is a safe space to be seen and known by others. Without safety, there is not vulnerability, and without vulnerability, we do not experience transformation. Watching and observing are not enough to lead to healing. The clearer we can be of our needs and the type of support that would be helpful, the greater transformation we will experience.
Dr. Greg Miller, MDIV, DMIN, and Beth Miller, MA, are Directors of the Men's and Women's Journey Workshops, respectively. They have both facilitated groups, individual counseling, and 3-day Intensives for men and Women for over 20 years.