Whether you’ve been leading in-person support groups meetings for decades or you are new to peer support facilitation, there is a little bit of a learning curve when adapting your peer services online. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back and we are here to support you every step of the way.
First and foremost is you need a strong internet connection! Your internet connection should be above 25 Mbps in order to offer a smooth online peer support group meeting. If you are not sure how fast your internet connection is, simply Google “Test your internet speed” then click the Run Speed Test button.
Second, designate your Peer Supporter space within your home. If you are unsure of where this place will be, we recommend turning on your computer camera attached to your computer and test out a few different spaces. If you are using a desktop computer and cannot easily move to a different location that’s totally fine. Here are a few things to consider when you are making the decision on where you will facilitate your groups from.
- What’s in the background? - You are opening a virtual space to allow people who are needing a safe space to receive support, the LAST thing you want to happen is for attendees to be distracted with what’s in the background of your facilitation space.
- Turn on your computer camera and view your space as a participant would. Are there any art, posters, signs, labels that would be triggering?
- Does it look messy?
- Is there personal information that would hinder your anonymity?
- Where is the light? - Make sure you have a great front end light source for both day and night.
- Be mindful of backlighting! Strong backlighting might prevent attendees from clearly seeing you.
- If you need a stronger light source - you can google ring lights or lights for web conferences and you will find plenty of affordable lights that you could get to ensure your video feed is bright and welcoming.
- Can you hear me? - A big part of creating a welcoming online space is how well your attendees can hear you. Is your space quiet? Is there a lot of background noise whether it's from other family members or outside traffic?
- Consider wearing headphones with a microphone. Earbuds will work but there are some other affordable options if you need one.
Third, be clear about your foundational goals for facilitating support group meetings, chatrooms, and one-on-one coaching sessions.
You have a story, skills and experience. You received support and gathered new tools from some special people. You took that experience and received training to help support others. You have an important skill and you have the opportunity to counter social isolation and mental health crises by creating connections with individuals seeking support. Isn’t that amazing!?!
Here’s a little optional recommendation, write down your foundational goal/ethic on a post-it note and stick near your screen. Take a moment before each meeting or coaching session to read and reflect on it.