I don’t believe that authentic, therapeutic connection online or by phone is impossible. In practice it can actually highlight nuances that are full of important information such as tone of voice, specific words, and enhanced facial expressions. These can ensure that people are fully heard, and responded to in psychotherapy.
It is also hugely important to ensure that everyone has access to mental health support at all times. There are many practical, emotional, cultural, and safety barriers to sitting in a room with a Psychotherapist on a weekly basis. The huge increase in people accessing services via text, and email during lockdown shows that people are reaching out however they can for something they need as a fundamental human right: mental health care.
I am aware of the specific ways the many internal facets of a person can become disconnected from each other, and how this might be mirrored in the disconnection of not being able to occupy the same room as other people. My job at this time involves working harder to maintain relatedness when the points of shared reference have changed in psychotherapy appointments, and simultaneously the wider world. It is possible to achieve connectedness, and means effective psychotherapy is available online or by phone.
Trust at some level is essential to psychotherapy. Trust that someone will be helpful, and that consistent support is available to you, are parts of this baseline in working together. Being able to further develop this trust in psychotherapy is, for some, a huge part of repairing damage done by others to them in the past. It should therefore always be managed thoughtfully, and carefully.
Trust is built on honesty. At this time of social distancing it’s worth being honest about what’s comforting, and frustrating about working remotely – whether you’re a Psychotherapist or a client. This is especially important if you normally work face-to-face.
Transparency, and speaking freely, is a move away from reinforcing the idea that we’re supposed to be resilient all the time in the face of crisis. In any situation it’s normal to run out of steam, and when we’re stressed this ability reaches capacity more quickly. We’ve never experienced a pandemic before so it’s wearing to be constantly open to adapting, and learning.
Reaching out to each other online or by phone during lockdown is simultaneously a comfort, and a loss because they are the only options available right now. It’s okay if this brings mixed feelings, and okay if you want to express these mixed feelings. I believe doing so is part of what keeps us connected during this time, as we navigate this global experience.