Unlike my session for Leeds Mind (which was for community managers and focused on developing a moderation strategy) this session was for moderators themselves.
OCDAction have an established community but they want to expand their moderator team and make sure their current moderation practices are as effective as possible. They planned to use this session to help their first group of volunteers get started. Learning would also feed into new guidelines and support for future moderators.
We started with an overview of the strengths and limitations of online support and the nature of community moderation. We spent the majority of the session identifying and exploring the main skills that moderators might need and practising applying them to example cases. We looked at:
- emotional support and empathy
- good comprehension and listening through language
- communicating effectively through the written word
- resolving conflict
- understanding and respecting boundaries
- courage and assertiveness
- a good knowledge of OCD and a genuine desire to help
Some of the volunteers had worked on the OCDAction helpline so we discussed the skills that might be transferable. We also explored what might make it more difficult to apply these skills effectively and some of the common difficulties moderators face:
- trying to ‘rescue’ a member or solve the problems they are facing – or perhaps thinking we know what’s best for them based on our personal experiences
- letting anger, frustration or irritation with a member show in the way we post and interact
- judging a member or jumping to conclusions
- failing to take time to look after ourselves or debrief with colleagues
- and, more specific to OCD, falling into a pattern of offering too much reassurance (an interesting discussion on this can be found in the forums here – I like the post that makes the distinction between reassurance and encouragement)
After lunch we looked at the forum etiquette, rules and safety information and discussed moderators’ roles in upholding them. We looked at some more example posts and worked out how we might respond and why. We looked at OCD Action’s confidentiality and safeguarding policies and explained moderators’ duty of care. We finished with a session where we shared how we look after ourselves and explored some suggestions for self care and debrief while moderating.
I left feeling very impressed by the work that OCD Action are doing – and with a lot to think about too. The nature of OCD means many forum members ask for their posts and accounts to be deleted after they have received the answers they are looking for – or they use the forum to seek regular reassurance. It may be that, as people go through treatment that encourages them to avoid the ‘seeking reassurance’ compulsion, they leave the forums.
This is absolutely understandable – everyone needs to be able to use the support available in a way that works for them. But it also means that posts which could contain useful information for others are taken down – and people who are further along a treatment journey may not stay around to support others. Both of these may make it harder to build and engage a community. I’m interested to explore this further and will definitely be keeping in touch with OCDAction.
It was such a fantastic day, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Thank you so much for all of your hard work before hand and on the day – it was incredibly useful for myself, as well as all the volunteers who attended, and I feel much more confident going forward. I’m so glad my colleague found your info online, you have such a brilliant understanding of OCD and tailored the training perfectly to fit with our charity.
Olivia Bamber – Media and Communications Officer OCDAction