Image by Zane Lee on Unsplash

Renewing the Creative Self: a facilitated group for post-PhDs

Date: 12 November 2022 – 18 Feb 2023
Location: online

You’ve finished your PhD: a great accomplishment! Yet now you’re feeling unexpectedly stuck or adrift. It feels like you need to find yourself again after everything that’s happened.

This facilitated group, which meets 9 times online over a period of 3 months, is a supportive space for just this moment. It’s for navigating your post-PhD transition with wisdom and kindness, in the company of others in the same situation. With tools and practices that renew your creativity and purpose.

 

The transition after the PhD

Of course you need a season of resting and digesting after getting your PhD. Despite this being common wisdom, it often isn’t an easy thing to allow.

New projects need to be pursued and decisions about the future must be made. Finding your own way can feel overwhelming after years of close supervision and scrutiny. You’re expected to push forward with vigour, although getting the PhD may have required you to inhabit constrained and defensive stances. Now you need to take some leaps of faith, just as your imagination has been blunted by academic caution and precision.

Within your institution or network, you may have received well-meaning advice to “push through” and “get things done”. To overcome perfectionism or imposter syndrome. To focus your ambitions and keep expectations reasonable. To stop procrastinating and start publishing.

You sometimes wonder if you need more discipline, or ways to manage your time better, but deep down you know that those aren’t it.

You want to feel that you’re not just going through the motions. That you’re not just falling in line to get by well enough. You still want to recognize yourself in what you do.

 

What’s needed now

Feeling stuck or adrift are natural indications of a transition in progress. As with all transitions, this one will need to play itself out. But three things are going to make a tremendous difference to how you feel during this time:

  1. recognizing that you are in a transition
  2. allowing yourself time to digest important aspects of the PhD experience and their impact on you
  3. grounding yourself in what has always been meaningful and energizing for you

These are not sequential steps. They are processes that work in parallel.

Giving attention to each will give you a greater sense of clarity and purpose. New energy and inspiration flow from there. Decisions and choices can be made from there.

 

What this group is

This group is a space for gaining back agency in your post-PhD life. You’ll receive our structured support on all three processes mentioned above.

Drawing on  the intelligence of your body and the solidarity of compassionate conversations, you will be able to:

  • use a fuller range of your inner resourcefulness and external resources for navigating this time;
  • gain some distance from pervasive labels such a “imposter syndrome” and “perfectionism”, and build a more empowering understanding of achievement and growth;
  • honour rather than minimize patterns of anger, anxiety, and sensitivity when these show up;
  • articulate your own boundaries, dreams, and authentic goals.

We’ve called it “Renewing the Creative Self” because ultimately that’s what this group is for: reconnecting with creative, enduring aspects of your identity while consolidating the strengths developed and experience gained during your PhD journey.

 

About the facilitators

Catelijne Coopmans (D.Phil. in Management Studies, Oxford, 2006) has long been fascinated with the trials and tribulations of academic life, and with the journeys of academics. Her own PhD journey was marked by tremendous joy, and also deep ambivalence about the thesis that resulted. After developing her career in research and teaching at universities in the UK and Singapore, a strong pull towards personal development-work led her to train in life coaching and embodied facilitation. Based now in Spain, she works with individuals and groups all over the world who want to cultivate authentic empowerment for navigating academic work and life.

Catelijne is an AMAZING facilitator. In her own quiet way, she was able to bring a diverse group together, create a safe space for everyone, gently guide us through the various exercises and provide great insight.

Angeline Lim, Lecturer and pracademic

 

Chuanfei Chin (DPhil Oxford, 2016; MCouns SUSS, 2022) is a philosopher, counsellor, and educator. He remembers vividly what it was like to feel stuck when he finished his PhD . With support from others, he created an award-winning academic niche in nurturing moral dialogues on contested social issues. His counselling training specialised in psychiatric rehabilitation, substance use, and trauma recovery for marginalised populations. He brings a person-centred, trauma-informed approach to group facilitation and peer support, which draws on our creativity and common humanity to promote healing.

I have witnessed and experienced Chuanfei’s gift in holding space with group participants for reflection and self-discovery, while encouraging self-compassion in embodied ways. Most importantly, he pays attention to self-awareness and is culturally sensitive to the various identities and values brought by individuals.

Maha See, Clinical psychologist and mental health consultant

Overview

The group meets 9 times over a period of 3 months.

The meetings, and the assignments you’re invited to do in-between meetings, will help in connecting you with your Creative Self again.

At our first meeting, you’ll get to explore what it means to think of this time after the PhD as a transition. What is this time of transition for? What is a good use of it? And how can this group help you with that?

In the following four weeks, you’ll be immersed in the practice of noticing and caring for the different shades of your experience in this post-PhD time. In particular, you’ll be given tools to explore the following with curiosity and compassion:

  • Tiredness and depletion
  • The need for safety and protection
  • (Re)surging anger and other fiery energies
  • The PhD thesis/dissertation: grief and triumph
  • Honouring personal virtues and values

After a break, four further meetings continue the journey. You may keep working with the same themes, and some others may be added, such as:

  • Finding relationships that support you
  • Saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ from your Creative Self
  • Letting yourself off the hook
  • Integrity in working with others

At our last meeting, you’ll reflect on the past three months and set intentions for how to continue to work with and look after your Creative Self from here. There’ll be time for celebration and for bringing gratitude to yourself and others.

 

What’s included

  • 9 facilitated Zoom calls of 90 minutes each
    • With embodied exercises to help you check in and care for yourself and a structure to foster compassionate conversation and witnessing. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Catelijne and Chuanfei will both be present for each call. These meetings will not be recorded.
  • Assignments to support your process between group meetings
    • After every meeting, you’ll be invited to take up one or two assignments. These typically involve paying attention to your life and your self in different ways, and experimenting with new practices.
  • A private Facebook group
    • Only for group members, this forum is a place to stay connected in between meetings. You can use it to share your reflections, ask for input or clarification about the assignments, etc.

This group will have no more than 10 members, not counting the two facilitators. This provides you ample opportunity to be heard and also to take heart from the experiences of others.

 

How do I know if this is a good fit?

This group will likely be a good fit for you if:

  1. You have completed your PhD. It doesn’t matter how recent or how long ago. PhDs in all disciplines and fields are welcome. It doesn’t matter if you hope to stay in academia or find a profession outside it.
  2. You feel stuck or adrift or low in energy or inspiration, not sure how to move forward.
  3. You feel excited about working through important aspects of your PhD experience, including negative ones. It’s likely that you feel some apprehension about this, too – totally normal and welcome.
  4. You like the idea of a shared space in which you can show up authentically with others and take heart from witnessing each other in this post-PhD transition.

This group will not be a good fit for you if:

  1. The description resonates but you haven’t finished your PhD yet. We care about that situation, too, but this group is for those who have completed their PhD journey. Know that you can always book an exploratory coaching session with Catelijne so she can look at and provide recommendations for your particular situation.
  2. You know or suspect that you need more personalized help with trauma, anxiety or depression. We work in a trauma-informed way but our group process is not therapy. If you have symptoms of, for example, complex PTSD, it is important to seek help from a trauma therapist. If you’re not sure, please schedule a conversation with Chuanfei.

 

What’s the time commitment?

Besides coming to 9 group meetings of 90 minutes each, we ask that you set aside at least 10-20 minutes on most days for journalling. This is to make tangible what you’re becoming aware of through the assignments, and more broadly to support your process of creative renewal.


 

Times and dates

We always meet on Saturdays from 10.15 – 11.45AM Madrid time (CET). Click here for time conversion.

The first five meetings, in November and December 2022, are once a week.

Dates:

  • 12 November
  • 19 November
  • 26 November
  • 3 December
  • 10 December

The final four meetings, in January and February 2023, are once every other week to allow for more extended experimentation and reflection between sessions.

Dates:

  • 7 January
  • 21 January
  • 4 February
  • 18 February

 

Costs

€ 505 early bird fee —  register by 31st October 2022

€ 570 regular fee — register by 9th November 2022

Payment plans are available in the form of three monthly payments of €174 (early bird) or €196 (regular).

There are 10 spaces in this group. The very last day to register is the 9th of November 2022.

*****Does this group feel just right for you yet your current financial context makes it impossible to join? Please reach out so we can explore if there’s still a way to make this work at both ends.

 

I want to sign up! What do I do next?

First, please check that you can make all (or almost all) of the meetings before you sign up – this is important for your own experience as well as that of others in the group.

Second, fill in a short application form to tell us a little about yourself. We will get back to you within 48 hours to let you know if we’re able to offer you a space in this group. Access the form here.

Third, make payment through the link in our return email to you. Your space is confirmed upon payment.

 

I have more questions first

Please reach out to us so we can answer your questions via email or set up a short call with you.

 

What people have said about previous workshops Catelijne and Chuanfei have co-facilitated

Among the many things that the workshop achieved, the most impressive of all was its success in bringing together early-career researchers, holding space for their collective experience and promoting a sense of solidarity.

Jenny Zhang, PhD researcher and tutor (“Managing Stress and Cultivating Resilience: Caring for Your Whole Academic Self,” July 2022)


During the short hour over Zoom, it was apparent that new threads of empathy and mutual recognition were instinctively formed as you invited our sharing and then helped to name and recognise our common struggles. Then, I felt an even deeper sense of solidarity when you led us through a small embodied activity in self-care, because we experienced the possibility of collective healing – it was so wordless and so palpable at the same time. Am very grateful and looking forward to witnessing more of your amazing work!

Will Zhang, Postgraduate researcher and design-thinking instructor (“Managing Stress and Cultivating Resilience: Caring for Your Whole Academic Self,” July 2022)


I found it very meaningful and it got me to really reflect on my relationship with writing. The emotional work was challenging but the switch from discomfort to more open and energetic feelings about writing rejuvenated me!

Anonymous, Senior lecturer and researcher-activist (“Avoiding Writing: A Different Way Out,” July 2021)