Ok, so I’m not a techie, not really a techie, although I am married to a techie 🙂 but I do like online gaming and social networking and I have been known to frequent chat rooms in my distant past. But all of that, well it’s just childishness really, just harmless escapism with no useful application; I wasn’t learning anything or developing any skills whilst engaging in these frivolous activities….or so I thought!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I started my training as a counsellor about nine years ago, before that I worked in banking which is all very dull and irrelevant so I won’t bore you with that! At the time I had an eighteen month old daughter and I was working part time so I thought, well this is it, now or never, let’s do something that I really care about and my foray into counselling began. I loved it every bit as much as I thought I would but with coursework and placements everything got a little bit stressful and I needed a way to unwind which is when my lovely (techie) husband said “Well why don’t you give World of War craft a go?”
So I did 🙂 by day I was a mild mannered (somewhat) trainee counsellor, mother and wife and by night I was a spell slinging uber mage with a penchant for turning monsters into sheep (Seriously you can’t make this stuff up). I loved the double life, the responsibilities I had for my personal and professional growth and development, for my clients and for my family were tucked away safely in the back of my mind while I romped through a fantasy world where I could be, or do anything.
But what did you learn, I hear you cry? Well my typing speed increased first and foremost! I learnt to work with large groups of people and communicate clearly with them via text. I learnt that relationships forged online have value, my fellow players were not merely pixels on a screen they were mothers and soldiers and students, they laughed and cried and became frustrated (often with me, because in all honesty I wasn’t that great at the game!) and they were friends. Eventually however I simply didn’t have the time to dedicate to the game and so with reluctance WoW and I parted ways.
Let’s move on a couple of years….
Having worked with compulsive gamblers for two years in a land based venue I was approached by an organisation that delivered support and therapy to problem gamblers online. I’ll be honest here, I wasn’t convinced! How could I convey empathy, compassion and understanding via a computer screen? How could I work with body language without a body to observe? But that’s when it occurred to me, all of those times when I had understood others that I had only ever met online, I had shared things with those people whilst running away from goblins or trying to stop the zombie apocalypse. Those connections had been real; those feelings had been real and those relationships had existed beyond and outside of cyberspace. So in that moment I understood that if I could recreate the strength of those connections with clients, albeit as part of a therapeutic alliance rather than a friendship, I could provide effective support and therapy.
I would like to say here that the epiphany didn’t mean that I was magically able to deliver effective online support just because I used to be a gamer. Far from it! Certain ways of expressing things online are simply not appropriate when you are working therapeutically yet my fingers wanted to type the words anyway so I had to be very aware of that to start off with. So I reached the decision to do things properly. Proper training a high level of dedication and a wholehearted belief that I can really make a difference to others by delivering therapy online are what I need and whilst I have two out of three it is the first of these things that led me here.
I look forward to learning more and I know it won’t be easy but this is important to me so I’m prepared or work for it!
This article was first published in TILT Magazine (Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology) and I am pleased to say I have since qualified and continue to work therapeutically online.