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Living life online

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

This week (9th July 2020) is for me a week with many post-lockdown firsts - my first book group since lockdown, my first meal out, first trip to the pub (tonight - hurrah), first dinner with friends. As these are usually outside, and we are in England in July, sometimes it's been chilly, wet, windy and pretty grim, but each time I have simply enjoyed being together, with friends, and not being stuck to a screen. So gradually, in the second half of 2020, our lives may begin to ease back into something that feels a little bit more like normal. And yet, it feels like things will never quite be the same kind of 'normal'. I've encountered a huge range in how people are approaching the easing of lockdown; whilst I am keen (if not desperate), to get back out and about, many of my friends are much more hesitant, reluctant, anxious and cautious. They are still behaving in the way we all did back at the end of March when lockdown first began in England. This diversity of response brings home just how much we differ in our approach to and tolerance of risk, need for social stimulation and contentment with our own internal worlds. The distance in behaviour between extroverts (me I guess) and introverts (lots of my dear friends) is striking.

Given my preference for face to face social interaction I've thought about online training and CPD as a necessary evil - we can't meet together so let's see what we can do whilst apart. I can't come and hear you deliver a clinical workshop or teaching session so can I see you do it online? Building this website to collate free online training has been a fantastic discovery; there is absolutely masses of great, free, online training for psychologists, psychotherapists, and mental health clinicians. We can learn from our own homes, sitting in front of our screens, and connecting with people across the world. Some of this online training is even delivered live. I don't need to find a dog sitter, catch a train, walk in the rain, or run for a bus. It's cheap or on this site, completely free. What's not to like? But I still want to go and meet people and learn and teach across the world just as soon as possible (and legal).

My good friend Bia (front) and our adolescent research friends and colleague in Berlin July 2019. I can't wait to see them all again

Yesterday, at my book group I learned (yet again) that not everyone thinks like me. My friend Liz, a journalist, has lost a lot of freelance work during lockdown. That's been very challenging - financially and psychologically. But Liz is resourceful and flexible and has found many ways to diversify and keep busy. And one of the things she has found to do is online training. Which she absolutely loves. It's not second best, it's not making the best of a bad job, and it's not a necessary evil. Through online training Liz has 'met' people she'd never meet in real life, - yesterday she had a webinar with Alastair Campbell, - learned about completely new things, made new connections and picked up work she'd never have found otherwise.

Conference dinner at the Riechtag - pretty, impressive, and memorable (Berlin WCBT 2019)

So this encounter with Liz and hearing her positive experience of online learning has made me think very differently about the future of education and training. When we are all able to move freely, travel, mingle, meet, eat and drink, dance and socialise, and stay overnight, will we still flock into conference centres and hotels to learn about psychotherapy, mental health, and clinical psychology? Will there still be big international conferences or small international working groups that meet face to face? Or will we stick with the online methods of connecting with each other? Or will we do both? I am now imagining a very odd kind of selective social engagement with learning. Those of us who are extroverts will get back on those trains and buses, book ourselves into those hotels and AirBnBs, and wave goodbye to our families excited about enjoying a few heady days of freedom. In contrast, those of us who loved lockdown, really enjoyed the new opportunities that learning online offered, and prefer to be tucked up at home in our own beds may continue to do just that. So will all conference become 'blended'? Will they become divided between extraverts who turn up in person and introverts who join online - but only for the bits they enjoy - and then make the most of the extra time they have to spend at home? Will the same process happen in universities and colleges? Will students want to GO to university? I'm not sure if this vision of the future is terrifying or liberating. It's certainly unsettling.

Either way though what I'm more or less thinking now is that we will continue to learn online, certainly at a higher level than we did before 2020. That's great in one specific way, because it this website may have a longevity I didn't anticipate 2 weeks ago. Help me make it even better and let me know about high quality online training in psychology, psychotherapy and mental health that I've not found yet. Don't forget - it has to be FREE.

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