03 July 2020. What has working online taught me: As we are gradually returning to a new kind of normal, some clients are choosing to return to the therapy room with social distance measures and hand sanitisers, whilst others are preferring to maintain online contact via Zoom or Skype. As I reflect on the past twelve weeks, what I have found interesting is how my own opinion about online therapy has changed and what lockdown has taught me about my profession. I recognise that we can sometimes read each other’s faces more closely on screen, as paradoxically we are both further away, yet closer to each other. I have also learned that those warm feelings of connection between us, which I had been frightened would be lost, are still there. We take our time just the same as we have done when we are in physical contact, more so sometimes, because if either of us talk too quickly the words get lost somewhere in the middle and we cannot hear, so we both have to wait. I notice that whereas I have always been comfortable with silence in the room and considered this a valuable therapeutic tool, online the silence feels uncomfortable and I wonder what that is like for my clients. Do they think I am lost for words, or do they see me deep in thought as I let their words penetrate, and process the information they are telling me? Both of these realities may be true. There is no doubt that I still love to sit opposite in person, to notice the rate and rhythm of our breathing, the stillness in our legs or the toe-tapping which might be saying “hurry up” or which might indicate a desire to run away or kick out; to see how my clients’ presence influences what goes on inside my body and vice versa – to acknowledge the importance that co-regulation plays in our quest for emotional well-being. These feel like important aspects of therapy that I must not miss, yet I wonder what difference it makes for the therapeutic journey of my client. After all, I apply meaning to all these nuances, and although I check these out with my client, I realize I may be inadvertently suggesting an alternative reality based on my own thoughts and feelings when we are in a room together, which does not occur when I only see their head and shoulders on a computer screen.
Whilst I understand online therapy may not be for everyone, I think our willingness to embrace this way of working has helped some of us to weather the Covid-19 storm. I have also been able to reach out to people outside of my geographical area; I have a new client who lives in France – and therapy is going well for us. Conclusively, we have to adapt to survive.
I know that during lockdown, I was able to adapt by sitting in my garden, closing my eyes and transporting myself, through imagery, to sitting by the side of the ocean with the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. How wonderful our minds can be! I hope you have all been able to spend sometime outside too, getting your vitamin D fix!