Many of us have adapted to working from home in recent months, in most cases quite abruptly. I had a sudden switch from seeing all of my clients face to face one week, to meeting everyone over video call the next. Disorienting to say the least!
I had previously worked with some clients online where they regularly travelled abroad, and so the logistics of video sessions were not new to me. However it has been strange to be working entirely remotely when human connection feels such a crucial element of therapy. Talking to other therapists there are differing opinions out there about the suitability and value of online working, with some viewing it as an exciting and flexible way of working and others feeling it’s a poor substitute for in-person work. This position seems to depend on the individual therapist and their client group.
I feel very thankful that most of my clients have been able to switch to video sessions and I am finding this way of working very rewarding now I have settled into it. I enjoy the flexibility of it for me and my clients, and I’m interested in the new challenges and material it throws up. To suddenly be in my clients’ living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, etc. is strange, as is inviting clients into my space, complete with cats making cameo appearances. It is simultaneously more intimate and less so.
Online working demands creativity and adaptability. Some people don’t have a private space they won’t be overheard in, and so we might do sessions where they are outside and walking around, or even do the sessions on video using the chat function so clients can type so they are not overheard. It’s not for everyone, but I’m finding it can work really well.
I know I will return to meeting clients in person again in the future, and I’m really looking forward to that- the easy connection, the quality of being present, being able to read body language cues. But I think I’ll also retain online working for clients who prefer that, not seeing it as a second-best way of working, but as a valid space in its own right.
As we come towards the end of the 10th week in lockdown in the UK I’m reflecting on how I’ve adapted to this strange present reality. Though the government is starting to lift some restrictions, the general consensus is that it will be a while before life resembles normality again. In learning to cope and adjust to this a lot of what I’ve been learning comes back to being kind to myself. For me that looks like:
I saw a lot of talk about productivity at the start of lockdown, and for a moment it seemed like everyone was getting on with creative projects (writing that screenplay, learning a new language, starting to knit). We were being asked to make the best use of all the time we suddenly had- we might not ever get that again! The problem with this pressure to be productive is that it ignores the fact that we’re living through a global pandemic which understandably brings up a lot of anxiety, worry and uncertainty. Not a good foundation from which to be our best creative selves. Concentration and focus can be hard to muster in a crisis, or that’s my experience anyway.
Instead of pushing myself to do more, not to ‘waste’ this time, I am letting myself do less. Life is slower at the moment and I’m accepting that, settling into it. I’m finding cooking to be a type of productivity I can really appreciate. It’s simple, methodical, tangible. It’s nice to have time to bake bread, make pasta from scratch, things that would ordinarily feel too laborious and time-consuming. I’m tending to my houseplants with more care, which they seem to appreciate.
Taking it day by day
Just getting through things at the moment is enough- that takes a lot. I’m finding myself saying that to my clients a lot. We’re doing well if we’re getting out of bed in the morning, feeding ourselves, meeting our basic needs. Anything on top of that is a bonus! Some days I can get more done than others and that’s ok. Sometimes things feel more manageable. Other days it hits me. Maybe a family member or close friend has a birthday and I can’t give them a hug. Perhaps a client has some kind of milestone and I’m not able to share in that joy in person, and suddenly feel very aware of the distance between us.
Avoiding the news
I’m trying to step back from the news cycle a little. I’m usually pretty good at not checking the news and social media multiple times a day, not feeling I need to be constantly updated on what’s happening in the world. That went out of the window when the global pandemic really hit the UK and dramatic changes seemed to be happening almost constantly. For a few days I got into a habit of repeatedly checking news website live blogs, keeping up to date with every new development.
However, I’ve realised the importance of giving myself a break from the news. Yes, I need to be informed and able to act responsibly and follow government guidance correctly. But no, I don’t need to know the minutiae of how every country is responding to the pandemic, and what the Covid-19 facts and figures are across the globe. It’s overwhelming and unhealthy, it's too much information to take in. If I don’t check the news I will find out what I need to know in some other way. And once we're through the other side of this thing I can process it properly, with some distance from it.
Staying connected to people
I’m trying to be more in touch with friends and family and putting effort into that. I’m checking in regularly with people who may be finding things particularly difficult at the moment, when I’m feeling up to doing that. I’m calling people more than usual, in a very un-millennial kind of way. I’m sending more voice notes, videos, anything that helps me connect with people at a time when face to face social interactions are rare. Though we’re increasingly allowed to see people in person this currently still feels quite fraught, and strange, and it's not clear when we will easily and freely be able to do that again.
These are my lessons so far, and maybe some of them will stick after lockdown. I'm not putting any pressure on myself to come out of this any 'better' in particular ways, though if that happens that's great (my bread making is coming on leaps and bounds). Just getting through it will do.