Peter G. Ferguson, Mary Noel-Morris
This project aimed to analysis the online peer support services provided by the research partner "The Gatehouse". The team goal was to uncover if there where triggering aspects to the inline peer support services that this organization has implemented in order to continue providing services to clients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The research team also looked to identify if the clients were using any coping mechanisms to manage potential stressful and triggering aspects of the new service format. The research concluded that many of the triggering aspects of the where inherent to any rapid changing in service delivery, and that various coping methods had been employed. Most of all this team was proud that suggestions for improvements, like adopting fulltime online services coupled with in person services in a hybrid model, where appealing to the partner and in keeping with their core values.
The research team, conducted comparative research, primarily by analyzing data collected by the partner through online surveys and analysis of secondary sources The project • explored whether any components of the Gatehouses online services have caused or may cause harm to their clients (i.e., triggered their clients); and • identified coping methods used by clients when they experience triggering events that may affect the online peer support, they received from the Gatehouse. • The results of the research project have sought to improve online services provided by the Gatehouse. • Our thesis statement is: Peer supported online group sessions can be an essential tool to the care that adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse receive, if the online service is developed to be responsive, respectful, avoids potential triggers and incorporates coping strategies.
Secondary research methodology was the driving force in this project, as analysis of pre collected data (in the form of online surveys) took the place of person to person interviews. • We incorporated a constructivist epistemological perspective that looked at uncovering the lived realities of the survey participants to learn: •what triggers they experienced and why; and • how they adapted and applied coping methods in their lives 3 . • The spirit of Participatory Action Research ran through this research project, as these principles are in keeping with the values of the Gatehouse 2 • We also used mixed research methods for this project which focused on analyzing the new surveys participants submitted after they attended an online peer support group and reviews of surveys that have been completed previously and archived prior to official pandemic restrictions (dating back to early 2020 ) 3 . The surveys, designed by the partner sought to determine whether the vulnerable sector it serviced were having their needs met by the new online service • These two methods mixed together formed our methodology for this project. Although, it is important to note that due to Pandemic restrictions, the bulk of our methods were on the secondary analysis side, while reviewing survey data that was provided by the research partner 3
Our project revealed, that for the most part, switching to online support has not had a negative effect on participants or derailed their progress. • The primary finding, is evidenced by the heavily favored tendency of participants to adopt the theme of the compliant participant. • Overall, the participants used their commitment to the peer support process to “buy in” and accept the new online service format, this coping mechanism was the most prevalent. • Survivors are well served by online services, as long as the facilitating organization is accommodating and flexible.
We identified three recommendations to the partner: 1. Develop additional materials to support participants • For example, pre recorded tutorials need to be part of the facilitation process, as an enhancement to the facilitation process, not just as supplementary materials that participants read on their own if they want to 2 2. Create a hybrid model of online service delivery, where the partner would offer both in person and online peer support group services (once the pandemic ends). The increased accessibility that this will provide to the clients of this organization might indeed be a game changer. 3. Employ the concept of “problem parking lots” where participants can table personal concerns that they have, that they would like to receive more focus. This enhanced focus of specific personal issue would be employed in smaller breakout groups, that are made possible by tolls built into the Zoom platform.
The research team wishes to acknowledge the support of Maria Barcelos at the Gatehouse and Linda Hill at Humber College for their support in this project.
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