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Making Good Use of Online Communication

Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, and other online communication services are making it easier for us to teach RC to people in distant locations. More and more RC leaders are experimenting successfully with holding classes, support groups, and other meetings online. While it is not the same as in-person contact, the video gives most people a better sense of connection with the others in the group than is achieved with audio alone (although telephone conference calls continue to be an excellent International Community-building tool).

The only limitations to who can be reached are lack of access to the technology and weak Internet connections. While these limitations are real, the situation is improving steadily in most parts of the world.

It’s been important to have someone at each end responsible for checking the connection in advance and maintaining the connection during the event. It’s also been important to make extra efforts to connect with the person or group who is at a distance. And everyone involved needs to discharge about the video connection, so they can be present with each other.

As we travel less to burn less fossil fuels, online communications will almost certainly play a vital role in our ability to have national and international workshops.

Below are stories I have collected in the last year from some of us who have used online communications to build RC.

Diane Shisk
Alternate International Reference Person for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities
Seattle, Washington, USA


After Sustaining All Life was in Paris, France, bringing RC to the activists gathering there during the United Nations climate conference, some of us delegates (from Kenya, England, Canada, India, and the United States) stayed in contact with people from other countries whom we had met there and began teaching them RC—using Skype, and so on. We’ve been meeting monthly on Zoom. We report on how our contact is going, strategize about any difficulties, and discharge. This has been very important to our ongoing contact with the new RCers.

I am also leading a monthly group for some African RC leaders, each of whom is in a different country (Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda, Swaziland). There are many challenges with weak Internet connections. One person connects with me by voice only, using WhatsApp; I hold my phone near the computer’s speaker and microphone, and she is able to hear and be heard in the group. It’s unusual for everyone’s connection to work for any one meeting, but the calls are still very important.

Diane Shisk


I was leading a gather-in in Washington, D.C., USA, when a small snowstorm shut the city down. So we set up a Skype alternative for folks who could not get there. With a laptop right in front of me, the people who were remote could see and hear me well and it was easy for me to remember that they were there. For mini-sessions, people paired up and called each other on their cell phones.

Mike Markovits
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA


About fifteen years ago I introduced my brother who is living in the Philippines to RC. He didn’t show an interest in learning more, but after that he would take permissive sessions when we would see each other every one to two years.

After about twelve years of this, he decided that he wanted to learn RC. I had tried for over a year to get him into a class in the Philippines. That being unsuccessful, I started teaching him while we were vacationing on a trip together.

After the trip was over, we decided that I would teach him and one of our cousins in Manila (the Philippines) over the Internet, using Apple’s FaceTime application. We met weekly and soon decided to add another cousin of ours to the class.

It has been one big experiment for me, and there have been many challenges. Though the video helps a lot, when counseling I try to make up for the lack of in-person contact by asking secondary counselors to provide physical contact. The time difference has meant that I teach the class at 5:00 a.m. on Sundays, which makes it hard for me to find an assistant in my geographical area. Sometimes the Internet connection is poor, so we have to stop the video feed and rely on audio only. Once when the Wi-Fi was poor, we improvised by using cellular service and convened the class in a car parked in a place where reception was good.

Despite the challenges, we have missed only four of our weekly classes since we started in June of 2015. There have been big changes in the lives of our members. One got off the psychotropic medications he had been taking for eight years. We have expanded the class to eight people by adding the partners or sisters of the men in the class. As members now participate from different locations, we have used Google Hangout to support multiple video conferencing lines, at no cost.

Here are some of the things that have helped keep the class going:

  • I had good relationships with the initial class members before we started. They have in-person sessions with each other, and there is a good amount of safety among them because of their relationships.
  • I think they can tell that this project matters to me and I am committed to them.
  • I have managed to visit the class and hold in-person classes, introductory lectures, or gather-ins almost twice a year since we started.
  • I have been able to give some class members relationship sessions via remote conference.
  • My local San Francisco (California, USA) RC Community has included my class in the Area. I have video-conferenced them into parts of our Area workshop and the Filipino/Pacific Islander workshop, so they could meet other Co-Counselors and participate in support groups, panels, and workshop classes.
  • Before inviting the women, I spent fifteen months of the class making it clear how RC is for the men and working on men’s oppression, male domination, and sexism. I wanted the men to be a good, committed base for themselves and then for the women we would invite to join us later.
  • I am able to teach the class even when I am traveling for work. I once taught it from the airport during a long stopover in Copenhagen (Denmark).

Not only has this been the most fun and satisfying project I have done in RC, I’ve also gained something unexpected from it. I had been having trouble sleeping (I would sleep less than five hours each night) for about five years before the class started. With the time difference, I was able to get almost nightly sessions with my class members when I couldn’t sleep. Eventually something shifted, and I now get seven to nine hours of sleep every night!

I’m building an RC Community in El Salvador, and I’m the only certified RC teacher in the country. Last year I had to attend an International RC workshop, and it occurred to me that one of my regular Co-Counselors who speaks Spanish and lives in another country could teach my fundamentals class while I was away.

One of the students volunteered to bring a laptop and set up Skype. I connected her with my Co-Counselor two weeks in advance, so that they could meet each other, have sessions, and talk about everything they needed for the class. When the day came for the class, she introduced my Co-Counselor to the group.

He taught theory and did demonstrations and everything, using Skype. When I returned, everyone in the class was delighted with him. They couldn’t believe his teaching by Skype was such a great and important experience.

I have taught a number of classes at a distance. People gather and do mini-sessions and local RC business. Then they call me, and the computer is set up so I can see the whole class and they can see me. Theory presentations, questions and answers, demonstrations of counseling all happen just as in a regular class. For demonstrations, someone holds the person’s hand or embraces them as I (the counselor) direct. For mini-sessions, people spread out and I mini on Skype with one of them.

I also led a daylong workshop for the RC Community in San Salvador, El Salvador, using Skype. María Lorena Cuéllar Barandiarán interpreted for me, with the help of another person. It was a regular daylong workshop. We had two classes, with theory and demonstrations, along with Co-Counseling sessions and support groups. It was a long time for people to be paying attention to a video screen, with interpreted communication. They learned theory, asked questions, and got to discharge, and some of them were counseled by me, but the lack of personal contact was challenging.

I teach an ongoing RC class in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. At times when I’ve been away for work, I have taught the class online. Here are my observations:

  • Skype is not always reliable, even when we take the time to sort out problems before class. That’s why we sometimes resort to FaceTime.
  • I’ve had to incorporate the students into my counseling to provide some physical contradiction for the clients. The sessions have been much more of a team experience than when I’ve been been physically present. It’s been fun and made me think about how to incorporate that “team sentiment” into my counseling when I am physically present.
  • Most of my students are middle- or owning-class young adults who were born and raised in the United States. They have a lot of early distress attached to screens (TVs, computers, cell phones, tablets, and so on). We laugh a lot about the numbness they feel when they watch a screen.

Nik Leung
San Francisco, California, USA


I think one of the biggest challenges in the RC Community is sharing RC resources outside of English-speaking Communities.

I wanted to get more resource to my Region, so I organized a class that Cherie Brown, the International Liberation Reference Person for Jews, taught by Skype. I included translation and made sure that Mizrahis were there.

There were technical difficulties and ways that internalized Israeli oppression (lack of attention, dramatization of unhappiness, leaving early, not insisting on a private space) affected the class. We all will discharge on these things.

Two days after the class, I uncovered some occluded distress in a dream, and two days after that I had another dramatic dream involving two Israeli members of the Skype group. For the first time in a long time, we’d had an injection of resource.

This demonstrates the potential for using Skype to spread RC resource to non-English-speaking, non-Western Communities.

Also, reading RC theory in English is still a huge problem. Oral translation as part of Skype groups has potential for getting theory out better.

María Lorena Cuéllar Barandiarán
San Salvador, El Salvador


In the autumn of 2015, my partner and I participated in the Healing from War Workshop in Poland via a Skype connection. When Molnár Gabriella first suggested it, I was not enthusiastic. I was lukewarm about “devices” and social media networks. But she and other Co-Counselors stressed that we were important to the project, even though health issues made it impossible for us to travel. I finally agreed to “tune in” from Japan.

It turned out to be wonderful! People waved and welcomed us into the circle. It was our first opportunity, after many months, to be in the big world. We woke at all hours of the night, dressed in our pajamas, to listen to the classes taught by Julian Weissglass (the International Commonality Reference Person for Wide World Change, and the leader of the workshop). I was part of an extraordinary class for women led by Olga Lenkova. We “tuned in” for the creativity evening. During a group dance, Juan Manuel Feito Guerrero whirled us around the big yellow room. I was also able to participate in two- and three-way Co-Counseling sessions that were important and memorable.

Leah Matsui
Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto-ken, Japan

I, too, participated in the 2015 Healing from War Workshop via Skype. Julian said, “We are all in this together,” and I was honoured to experience that with this group. I got to discharge my distress about war and bring back what I had learned to my local RC and wide world communities and most of all to my own family.

Randy Matsui
Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto-ken, Japan

I’ve been to workshops at which people phone in (with just voice) for classes and support groups, and I’ve led the support groups those people have been in. It has been much easier when people Skype versus phone in. It’s easier for me as a teacher and easier for the other participants to keep thinking about the person who is not physically present.

Jennileen Joseph
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

For health reasons, I attended the West Coast North America Pre-World Conference via Skype.

I got a copy of the schedule in advance and planned which parts of the conference I would Skype in to. I set up all my sessions beforehand. I also sent e-mails to a long list of folks I wanted to do minis with and said that if they wanted to do a mini with me, they should place themselves next to my Skype person (I included a schedule of who was Skyping me in and when).

I had a good experience in hearing the classes, having sessions, and attending a support group and some of the topic groups. At the end of each night, someone walked me around to say goodnight to folks, which helped me feel even more a part of the conference. By the end of the weekend, I felt very much a part of it.

Here are a few things I would recommend:

1. If possible, have support groups and other small groups meet in a private room, or without too many other groups in the same room (to lessen the background noise).

2. Ask your Skype person to check in with you periodically to make sure you’re still connected.

3. Position the device so you’ve got a good view (so you’re not looking up at the ceiling the whole time, for example) and so you’re close enough to be able to hear well.

4. Make sure your Skype people have some idea of how to use Skype (or they have someone who can assist them).

5. Text each person shortly before they Skype you in, to remind them about it and who has the necessary device.

6. Have a person in charge of the Skyping team who can oversee the team and handle any difficulties or unforeseen things you might want to add to your Skyping involvement.

7. It can be helpful and less isolating for the team members to work in pairs.

8. Have several people bring laptops or iPads to the event, so that several are available for the Skyping team.

Dvora Slavin
Seattle, Washington, USA

Two of us from Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) planned to attend a Catholic women leaders’ workshop in Boston (Massachusetts, USA) only to find that our flight had been cancelled due to weather. So we, along with seven others, connected to the workshop via Zoom. It turned out to be [resulted in being] the best workshop ever.

The notes we posted to each other while watching the classes were powerful. There was something about the levity of the simple comments and the connection it created that allowed me to take in more than I ever remember taking in during a class. I was more awake and able to hear, understand, and integrate what was being said. It was great!

Mary Klausen
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

At the 2015 Racism and the Environment Workshop, Barbara Love and I Skyped in a group from Trinidad and Tobago (see page 23 of the October 2015 Present Time). They were with us for the classes and topic groups, and they met with themselves for meals, sessions, and support groups. Waveney Richards, their Regional Reference Person, led them locally.

Diane Shisk


In our support group for people of South, Central, and West Asian heritage, a member stayed connected with us via Skype while out of the country during a family emergency. Another member attended via Skype when she was too sick to make the long drive to the group.

In our Gente Latina/o [Latino/a People] support group, a member who was living with family in another country for six months joined us via Skype.

The laptop was placed on a chair, and the rest of us sat closer to each other than usual so we would all fit on the screen. We shared theory, each person had a turn to discharge, and once someone attending via Skype counseled the support group leader.

Everyone was amazed at and pleased with how well it worked.

Victor Nicassio
Los Angeles, California, USA

When I lead classes or other groups that some people attend remotely, I have each person who is attending remotely pair up with someone who is in the room. (This means that each person in the room needs a computer, tablet, or smart phone.) The pairs have their minis with each other, and throughout the class the member of the pair who’s in the room keeps an eye on the connection and any technical issues.

Last time I did this, it took about half an hour to set everything up. Next time I will set up the pairs ahead of time, ask them to make sure they can connect with each other easily, and maybe have them do a mini-session before the group starts.

Lyndall Katz
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

I taught a class in which a person in another country attended via Skype for the whole class series. She participated in mini-sessions during the classes and did sessions with class members between the meetings. She already had personal connections with a number of people in the class, which made it easy to fully include her.

Diane Shisk

Note: Many people report better experiences with Zoom than with Skype. This is especially true if multiple sites are involved, but even with two computers, Zoom seems to be more reliable and to have higher-quality audio and video. With a free account, you can make group calls, but you get cut off after about forty minutes; then everyone has to reconnect for another forty minutes. With a paid account, calls are unlimited, and only one person on the call needs to have a paid account.

Diane Shisk

the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

(Present Time 187, April 2017)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00