Almost over night, most of us have joined both pop-up and professional online communities during this COVID-19 global pandemic. We thrive in community, because humans are meant to live and work in close relationship with others. But what happens when these virtual meetings miss their mark?

In this episode of the Mental Horizons Podcast, Virgil describes the Healing Community Matrix tool he designed during his career in nonprofit leadership. It is a tool he has used many times in therapeutic communities to assess the health and wellbeing of its members and their experience of connection (or not) as part of that community.

At the bottom of this blog post is a link to Virgil’s Healing Community Matrix – An Assessment Tool for Supporting and Energizing Online Mental Health Gatherings.

That ‘closeness’ that we experience in physical gatherings is now being achieved via technological connections. Or at least attempted. As this new form of gathering continues we notice that it is fostering a sense of nurturing community in some and ‘Zoom fatigue’ in others. It is time to pay more attention to the attributes of healing community that are important in any mental health ‘gathering’.

The Five Key Attributes of a Healing Community

  1. Emotional Safety
  2. Belonging and purpose
  3. Kindness, respect and open communication
  4. Welcoming and appreciation of each members’ participation
  5. A sense of mutuality

How to Use the Assessment Tool

Once every two weeks (or whatever feels natural to you) every member of your online gathering is invited to anonymously check one box on each line of the assessment grid, indicating their personal experience of the strength of each attribute within your gathering.

The answers are collected in a manner that preserves anonymity. The results are then averaged and presented in the next online gathering to those who have participated. The leader guides an appreciative dialogue about each result.

A community strengthening dialogue naturally emerges with both the positives and the challenges being discussed. Longer-term ideas and action planning naturally emerge. Implementation occurs. In whatever interval of time feels best, you repeat this process to review and celebrate positive changes, while observing and addressing new challenges.

When you pay attention to these attributes, you will naturally strengthen your online experience and keep it vital and not fatigued.

Download the PDF here and email Virgil with any questions at