As a therapist working during the Corona pandemic, I feel compelled to share my experiences. As the dramatic impact of the virus’ wave washes over the world, we are all finding ourselves unexpectedly sequestered in unchartered territory. Life seems to have forced us in an unusual duality of extremes: Too much solitude, or no time alone. So now, as we are all swimming in common waters and jointly finding our footing, both therapists and their clients must become flexible to continue the healing process.
I used to meet with clients in my office, which is neutral space for both of us, but as you all know, on-line therapy has become the new normal.
I am married with two young kids. While I technically have the space to do video sessions in my home, when I imagined how those sessions would work, I was haunted (and amused) by this viral video of kids interrupting their dad’s live TV news interview https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2017/03/10/interview-interrupted-children-newday.cnn. So I decided to work from my car.
My initial strategy was to park the car away from my home and out of sight from my darling, yet in these times particularly needy and frustrated children. Despite my attempt to cocoon myself from external distractions, however, my parked car was soon rear-ended in the middle of a video session. My client witnessed me momentarily shaken, and then something amazing happened… the therapy session continued!
I was thrilled at how quickly I was able to overcome my personal shock, but nonetheless, I began working from home in a locked room. While I am accustomed to hearing about my client’s metaphorical and sometimes physical homes, my personal space is not discussed with them, since we are after all here to help them. Yet here we were both revealing more layers of our personal selves as our quarantine sessions continued. And as we both laughed and giggled at the awkwardness of our new setting, therapy continued!
Unfortunately, it was not long before my children began to invade my newly-created therapeutic space with their high-pitched giggles and a moving doorknob. In one particular session, I could feel myself blush as my child’s tantrum was audible in the background. As I apologized for the disruption, a blatant reminder to us both of my own imperfect life, we both smiled, and therapy continued!
Needless to say I then returned to my car. Now, in my private parking space, which requires that I move from time to time to gain cellphone reception, and then again to allow for a neighbor to move their car. And still, therapy continues!
As Passover is upon us, I find myself the wandering therapist. It is not ideal, but we manage. Just as we work in therapy to overcome various obstacles that interfere with personal growth, so are we now working to overcome the challenges of the therapy itself. And, what I am coming to understand is that while on-line therapy in times of a crisis has its challenges, it is also chock-full of unexpected advantages. By virtually forcing couples to move forward, for example, this new format allows for growth that many might not otherwise have achieved. As we discuss intimate subjects previously reserved for their weekly hour in my office, couples are finding themselves discussing these subjects in their homes between themselves. The intimacy is being created in the home, rather than in my office. For some, the fact that we are meeting in their home seems to make them feel more comfortable, and they find it easier to be more vulnerable.
Some clients really struggle with the technology and prefer phone calls, and so we adjust to what makes them feel most comfortable. But what is certain is that we will not give up. As long as the client is committed to the process, we will be creative, flexible, and open-minded so that we can continue the work that is so crucial to feeling good in times that threaten that.