Pandemic Reflections: Online Therapy–Connecting and Growing in a Brave New World
It’s been about a year and a half since I shifted my practice online. Moving from in-person to virtual therapy was a step I did not take lightly. Beyond the most obvious and important concern—the physical and psychological safety of my patients as well as my own—there was much else to consider. How would the loss of the shared physical environment impact the quality of the therapy?
In an effort to help me make this transition successfully, I threw myself into virtual training, joined groups with other equally concerned professionals, read articles, listened to podcasts with thinkers in and beyond my field, and wrestled with my resistance to learning new technologies.
I was perhaps never more grateful to be able to lean on my own therapy, which had, of course, also abruptly moved online. Having somewhere to seek refuge and find meaning in a time of uncertainty and danger helped me continue to locate my center and navigate this strange new world that is still unfolding before our eyes. The experience of suddenly finding myself on the virtual couch also helped me empathize with my own patients and their reactions to this transition.
So much has changed. This time of social distance has provided a kind of cocoon for me in which I have been able to find new ways to be—both professionally and personally. It’s been and continues to be a transformative experience.
What I have come to realize is that what is gained by meeting virtually far outweighs what is lost. One unexpected advantage of this arrangement has been that many of my patients have reported a greater ability to communicate from the comfort of their familiar surroundings. Also, despite my initial concern about not being able to prevent intrusions during sessions (as I had been able to in my office), shifting part of this responsibility to the patient has allowed for a more equitable relationship between us. Asking my patients to play an active role in safeguarding the therapeutic environment has enhanced, not diminished our relationship.
My point is that I believe it is possible to live an examined life and continue to grow through whatever life presents us. After all, isn’t that what psychotherapy is all about: learning to adapt to ever-changing circumstances with a measure of grace, emerging maybe stronger, certainly with new insights and understanding of self? I know this to be true, not only on account of my own experience, but because of bearing witness to the extraordinarily brave and resourceful people I work with.
This is one of my many pandemic insights. What are yours? Who or what have you been able to lean on? How have you continued to expand and evolve in the face of uncertainty and fear?
If you’re feeling stuck, or think you could benefit from speaking with a professional listener, I offer individual and group psychodynamic psychotherapy as well as therapeutic writing groups. You can read more about my services here, or contact me to find a time to talk.