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How therapists have approached continuing practice during the pandemic
Adjusting to the ever-changing ‘new normal’ as a result of Covid-19 is something that society has faced head on in many ways. While lockdowns one and two have been and gone, the global pandemic remains an issue we continue to battle. Coronavirus still grips the world and continues to change the way we work, socialise and interact, and as such we have been finding out from a selection of our therapists how they have managed to maintain a private practice. Dr Jonathan Moult, Richard Turrell and Maria Kardasi join us (virtually) and share some of their experiences, struggles, and outlook for the future in terms of what this may mean for therapy.
The transition to working online is something that the therapists have embraced as best they can, especially in relation to pre-established clients with Maria telling us ‘With my clients, both those I had been meeting online for years, and clients that I had been seeing face-to-face prior to lockdown, the transition worked well as we had already established a relationship’. However, a key element at the root of this success is the underlying factor that the initial relationship had been built face-to-face, which highlights the important role physical connection plays in the success of establishing a relationship between therapist and client.
Similarly, Jonathan told us that ‘Most of us can adjust and make do with Zoom. For established clients it is acceptable but regrettable’. However, with regards to the changes social distancing has brought to the ways we relate and interact, he told us ‘I believe we need to re-establish actual psychical encounters, both in life and in psychotherapy. Disembodied/virtual encounters are not the way forward’. It seems that despite the fact that we live in an ever-changing world with the continual evolution of technology, there is no replacement for the connection of physical interaction and face-to-face encounters, and so this is something that society cannot afford to lose.
Moreover, Jonathan also told us that he felt ‘for in-depth psychology interventions and more serious distress, Zoom sessions may not/won’t help very much’, emphasising the important role that physical interaction plays within psychotherapy for both client and therapist. There is only so much we can see through a screen, and factors such as poor internet connection or lack of privacy which may come with virtual sessions from home, can affect the ability to deeply engage in sessions.
So how did our therapists approach continuing their practice through lockdown? One issue Richard was particularly conscious of was excessive screen time in respect of his clients as well as himself. He told us that he ‘found it helpful to encourage clients to take some time between their online work commitments and therapy session – physically moving around beforehand is a good way to make the distinction between work and therapy’. With so much of our day-to-day life being moved to online resources during lockdown, encouraging clients to physically distinguish between their other commitments and therapy sessions is a useful way to help a client prepare for their session and prepare their mind-frame.
Familiarity and continuity are also important factors to uphold for clients to maintain the security of the environment they are used to. Maria told us ‘I had to find a way to make my home environment like my office to maintain elements of continuity – e.g. had a professional and clear background, positioned myself in the posture I would normally sit at during sessions, and ensured I had a strong internet connection to make the quality of our sessions as clear as possible’. Our therapists found particular elements such as these important to identify when moving to online sessions, so as to try and provide their clients with a certain degree of normality during this overwhelming time.
This has been a year with challenges and changes that none of us could have foreseen or imagined, and as we enter into the new year with the positive progress of a vaccine bringing us closer to returning to normality, we are one step closer to physically reconnecting with one another again.
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