As we come to the end of the school year and hopefully get some rest during August, Jill Carter reflects on what has been a particularly challenging year for many of us as therapists. How has the move online changed counselling training? And what can we do to avoid burnout?
As the pandemic lessened its grip, we like many other small training companies were faced with a dilemma. When would students want to return to face-to-face training if at all? And if our new best friend was going to be Zoom, how would that change the way that our courses work? Would students still be comfortable sharing when there’s a screen in the way? And how on earth were we going to do sandplay and creative arts online?
The answer to these questions turned out to be that working online is really not that different to being in the room with people.
Yes, I felt sad when a student asked me what it was like to be in the room with the symbol collection. And yes, I missed the camaraderie of the coffee breaks and lunch breaks which are such a big part of face-to-face trainings.
But to my surprise there are advantages in doing trainings online. For example, it can be a very intimate space. The screen doesn’t exist after a few minutes, especially as our courses are always small groups of no more than eight. Each of us has our own sand tray
In front of the camera and some art materials to the side just as in the room. One of the questions I’m often asked when people book on training courses online is what equipment do I need?
The answer I give is you would be amazed what you have in your home environment that can be used in the sandtray. I send people outside into their gardens and parks to look for natural materials like acorns, pinecones leaves. twigs and flowers. The act of gathering these puts us into a different space and prepares us to be in a creative space during the courses.
Then of course there are the little nick knacks that we all have in our houses. Crystals, candles, shells from a beach holiday. Then if you have children, toys and figures from their rooms are great in sand. Batman, princesses, witches have all got their place in the wonderful archetypal world of symbols. I use the word symbols, but you will also hear them called miniatures, figures or figurines. It’s all the same thing.
Children are experts at using their imagination to enable something to symbolise something else. That’s one of the many things that we lose as we grow up. Our egos tighten and we become literal thinkers. A spade is just a spade. To a child, it could also be a spaceship. Our courses are all about allowing that freedom to just be playful, to stop judging ourselves and allow ourselves to relax.
So, what does it feel like doing creative work online?
A lot of students have benefited from being in their homes space. Obviously, it’s cheaper and more convenient. For a lot of us it’s also easier to do creative work without other people in the room. We do a lot of experiential work in both face-to-face and online courses. It’s not death by PowerPoint! There is of course theory, and lots of research-based advice.
I’m a firm believer that you learn by doing, and there is as much doing on the online courses as in face-to-face ones.
We also make sure you’re not just sitting in front of the screen for six hours. There is movement, there is music, meditation, stretching so that your body is also a part of the training. What surprised me the most is that there is still a sense of community. The group still bonds – and we encounter a larger cross-section of people. I’m thinking of the last Working Creatively with Trauma course. We had people from Malta to the Orkney islands who would never have met pre-Covid.
We will do some more face-to-face trainings when Covid finally goes away. But my own prejudice against doing stuff online has melted away. I have seen it work. I have seen people still go through the transformational process in a supported environment. In fact, people have often been more comfortable sharing online.
There is nothing more wonderful than eight people holding up their precious artwork in the little Zoom windows.
There’s another advantage, you have the recordings to look back on. When you are presenting your sandtrays or piece of art to the group, it’s easy to miss something that the tutor says. It takes time for this kind of training to percolate. You can go back whenever you want to reconnect to that special space and look at your colleagues and friends.
In a very difficult year finding that online trainings are just as rich as face-to-face ones has been a joy. I have met people I would never have met. So, if you’re hesitating about doing our courses because they’re online, give them a go. The basis of our courses is learning, nurturing and support. You can still get these online. Now where’s my spade, I’m off to fly to Mars for the summer. Take care of yourself.
We offer trainings in Integrative Sandplay, Working Creatively with Trauma, supervision and Expressive Arts. All our courses will be available online and face-to-face when there is demand.
There are new dates available for the Certificate in Integrative Sandplay in January 2023. Our September and November 2022 intakes are full. Get ahead of the pack and book for January here.
There are spaces on the Introduction to Working Creatively with Trauma course on November 5/6th online. You can book that course here
You can find details of all our trainings here jillcartertraining.co.uk.