From Ana Hristić, MA, LCSW, Director of Education & Workforce Strategies, Trauma Informed Oregon

I hope this blog finds you and your dear ones well. In addition to trying to redefine my “new normal,” in terms of work and personal life, I have been keeping busy staying in touch with many of you. These wonderful moments of connection have birthed several projects including weekly vlogs related to workforce wellness and TIC during a time of incident response. I hope that you find them useful and share them widely!

Another mini-project that has emerged from connecting with some of you is putting together some “notes from the field” related to online training. Many of our training activities may transition to the online platform, and I wanted to get a conversation going about what tools, tricks, and efforts you’ve found useful in your online experience. For reference, here is a list of some of the online platforms you could use to stay connected Staying Connected while Physically Distancing.

To help me get us started, I interviewed a Train the Trainer graduate Elizabeth Bouvier-Fitzgerald, LPC, (Clinical Supervisor at Deschutes County School-Based Program) about her recent experience offering a training online:

How are you holding up and filling your cup these days?

Our dog was diagnosed with bone cancer three weeks ago and had surgery two weeks ago today. He has become a furry, cuddly, living lesson in resilience and parallel process. Every new milestone, from taking his first three legged steps, to climbing the stairs, has given us something new to celebrate. I’m finding so many parallels between his recovery and the current state of the world . . . there are gifts in every challenge.

Other ways I’m filling my cup right now, are by running up and down my stairs every day, meditating, eating my husband’s mac n cheese and continuing to do what I love to do most: connect with others through trainings. Last week I was able to share a foundations training with human service workers and domestic violence advocates. This coming week I’ll be co-presenting a virtual self-care training for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) with Jaye Holly, our Sanctuary consultant. Really looking forward to that.

What prep work did you do for the Zoom training, that was different than usual? Any prep work for the participants?

With regard to the training, I was already familiar with Zoom, which helped. But I got to attend a Zoom training earlier that week and took notes on the presenter to see what was effective for audiences right now. One thing I noticed was that she was wearing headphones. That turned out to be very helpful for reducing background noise. It also helped me stay focused and present. I also went through my slide deck the day before my training to modify the length and review my notes to ensure there was no content that might be particularly triggering under the current circumstances. I shortened the training by an hour and highlighted the fact that we were experiencing a collective trauma. When I covered the neurobiology of trauma, I normalized and shared examples of the Fight, Flight, and Freeze responses we may be noting in ourselves right now. I was careful to remove shame and instead highlight that this is our brain’s brilliant survival instinct, while noting some ways we can continue to keep ourselves safe while doing our best to minimize our fears.

Because the group all worked together and were really missing each other, I opened with a two-question check-in: How are you feeling and what is your goal for our time together? This made for a lengthy check-in but it felt essential. I took notes of everyone’s responses during check-in and then wove their feelings and goals into each section throughout the training as a way to reinforce personal connection to the material and hopefully help people feel very seen and heard.

I had also reached out to the group’s organizer to ask if there were any particular areas of sensitivity for her team that I should be mindful of going into the training.

In terms of preparing myself, I stayed hydrated and did a 10-minute meditation before I started.  One of my favorite things about training is how I completely forget about myself and the world and get to become focused on who I’m with and what they need. I was exhausted at the end of the day but in a good way.

How was the Zoom/online platform?

I’m a huge fan of Zoom having used it for other trainings, events, and meetings. I’m still trying to figure out how to move recordings from Zoom to YouTube so if anyone knows how to do this magic, let me know! I do not record trainings without participants consent. I am more trying to figure it out for visual podcasts or other trainings I might create that don’t have a live audience.

I’ve also used Woo (not sure I’m spelling that right) for a training I’d done a couple of years ago. It’s great to be able to see your audience, but when you can’t, it’s helpful to encourage people to use the chat feature. When I covered trauma re-enactment, I knew it’s difficult material even under “normal” conditions, so I acknowledged that up front and encouraged people to have compassion for ourselves, to feel safe to ask challenging questions, and to feel safe even to disagree, while being open to new or different ideas.

Shilo George, MS, (Owner & Trainer of Łush Kumtux Tumtum Consulting), recently shared these two article with me: Why Zoom Meetings Can Exhaust Us and ‘Zoomed Out’: Why ‘Live’ Teaching isn’t Always Best

Shilo and I will be facilitating the next Train the Trainer online at the end of the month, and will report back with more suggestions and ideas. What notes from the field can you offer related to participating in or offering trainings online? Write them in the comments below so that we can compile some “practice-based evidence”!