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Online therapy groups during COVID-19 have pros, cons say organizers

Jul 01, 2020 14h08 ● By Bill Hardesty

Normally group therapy programs involve meeting in person, where even hugs can be offered. Not anymore with meetings going online. (Pixabay)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Last month, the City Journals covered a story about how the COVID-19 shutdown has affected group therapy initiatives like AA and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 12-Step program. The article was from the participant’s point of view.

This follow-up is from the perspective of a facilitator or organizer of a group.

In the world of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) no one directs or facilitates a meeting. Individuals called Home Group Members are responsible for the meeting like setting up chairs, unlocking the doors, and beginning the meeting. After that, the meeting goes where the meeting goes.

NA is a 12-step program modeled after the AA 12-step program. They don’t focus on any particular drug because addiction can be played out with a variety of drugs. They strive to find their higher power and do service.

Their hotline (801-25-CLEAN (25326) or Spanish 801-33-AYUDA (29832) is staffed by six volunteers who can direct callers to meetings held through the Salt Lake Valley.

RJ (no last name to protect privacy) is a home group member.

“Some participants find online frustrating,” RJ said.

RJ explained that a big part of their meetings is giving hugs and looking into people’s eyes.

“Even when people say they are fine, you can tell something is wrong by looking into their eyes,” RJ said.

Sometimes in a Zoom meeting, people either don’t show their faces or when things get painful, they just turn off the video or sign off.

“One positive part of being online is that we have people from all over the world tapping into a meeting,” RJ said.

With the state moving to a yellow status, RJ said they are talking about returning to some face to face meetings or maybe even a hybrid where some participants are social distancing in a room while others are still online.

It is up to each home group to decide if and when to move to face to face meetings and what they will look like.

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