From the facilitator:
This summer we will hold Virtual Group Sessions, and it is important that you know why. I was initially reluctant to meet with clients, individual or group, on a virtual platform. It seemed counter intuitive to me. Social behavior, I reasoned, was essentially a matter which required a physical presence. I even delayed Spring Groups for several weeks based on this assumption.
Eventually, though, I began to see some individual clients virtually, and I was shocked. The sessions were actually more productive (in most cases). Social issues were somehow more effectively addressed online. Really. I kid you not. It remains unclear to me why this might be, but I have some thoughts I’d like to share which I am still wrestling with. This is a work in progress, but progress is indeed being made.
A shift toward virtual interaction has already occurred organically among young people (and out of necessity among the rest of us). The rules and equations of virtual interaction differ somewhat from traditional social norms. Some are in a kind of Limbo, but I’m coming to understand those which are better established. Students will benefit from learning certain skills in the context in which they will likely be employing them.
Simple examples would be how to greet one another, how to present oneself visually, a new notion of eye contact, taking turns in a different kind of conversation. There are many others. Most of what we mean by social skill remains the same–perspective taking, for example, is still as essential. Other factors which come into play include, obviously, current health concerns, lowered anxiety, novelty, ease of access suggesting improved attendance, convenience, and more.
So for those reasons, Groups will be virtual this summer, and possibly will continue in that format beyond the pandemic, though I expect to make both virtual and office appointments available for individual sessions. This is an issue of great interest to me. I would welcome your feedback, both questions and insights. It’s something we’re all going to need to come to terms with as the world changes beneath our feet, and new norms come into play.
Thomas C. Merriman, Ed.D., C.A.S.