Can You Develop Psychosocial Skills Through Online Training?

Can You Develop Psychosocial Skills Through Online Training?

“Aid workers warn that while psychosocial support needs will mount for the tens of thousands of displaced people in South Sudan, the resources and skills needed to treat them are in short supply”, says IRIN, from Juba . Perhaps we could say the same thing for many war torn or disaster ridden places in the world, where few relief workers are trained to run psychosocial support programs. When I say relief workers, I mean international but also national staff of course, who are unfortunately the least trained of all.

It is not enough to know about mental health and psychosocial issues in emergency and post emergency contexts, such as trauma, grief or burnout.  Aid workers must have practiced a lot before they can master personal and social skills, an important condition to enable them to perform quality work with distressed populations, especially children. Resilience, it seems, entails both set of skills, such as self-awareness, ability to control one’s emotions, manage high levels of stress, but also being able to work with others in a team, be culturally intelligent and able to deal with conflicts.

Growing Life Skills with Distance Learning

Now the question is: can one learn psychosocial skills through an online course? And change behaviors in a sustainable way? Soft skills have been taught online for quite a few years now with success, even if face to face or blended training is always the best choice. However, there are conditions for best results: make a difference between knowledge/instruction and skill learning, designing challenging opportunities to practice directly in the field and keeping motivation up through measuring behavioral changes with pre-defined indicators. The pedagogical design would then use a number of technical “tricks”, such as giving examples and illustrating different sets of behaviors, providing feedback and assessments and personal coaching for the students, especially when the courses are asynchronous off-the-shelf ones.

The CHP offers such a course on Humanitarian Resilience for aid workers: Self Management in a Humanitarian Context – A Resilient Path


Author: Claire Colliard is the Executive Director of the Centre for Humanitarian Psychology. She has also been training humaniarian staff for the last 20 years.


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