“You’re on mute.” I didn’t know a year ago how often I would repeat these three words, every time with a smile on my face.
Life as a Psychosexual and Relationship therapist has changed significantly in the past year. We all know why.
COVID 19 has taken many casualties in its fury. People, businesses, relationships, and education to name a few.
On March 23rd 2020 Boris Johnson told the country that people “must” stay at home, and certain businesses must close. Within minutes of the announcement my work phone was vibrating consistently – clients panicking about their therapy sessions. Texting, needing reassurance that some form of ‘normal’ was going to continue for them.
At that moment, in that minute, I’d lost my sense of ‘norm’. I was scrabbling around with my own thoughts and the panic of “OMG that’s it, my business is over, how do I work remotely with ALL my clients…?” “I can’t even work Zoom properly, aggghhhh!” and “How can I do therapy online; is this going to work with my client base?”
That was then. Now, reflecting back, I can clearly see the challenges this announcement brought for the world of therapy, and for me personally, especially how quickly my clients and I had to adapt to working together remotely. Yet within these challenges, these adaptions have brought many gifts into therapy.
Before Covid, some couples couldn’t attend therapy – often because of a lack of childcare, or one or both partners working too late. Working online means they can now attend, even though they may appear on screen exhausted, wrought and desperate.
Suddenly many couples were forced together 24 hours a day without an outlet. No going to the gym, meeting friends, or working long hours in the office. The ‘exits’ that couples have created to get their needs met, and may well have been the cause of frustrations in the relationship, are no longer there.
Hendrix, Harville in ‘Getting The Love You Want’ (p112,2005) states: “Closing an exit is not a specific event that occurs at a particular moment. It is a process that may take time, sometimes as much as several months. The reason for this is that the exit is trying to get a need met that has been frustrated in the relationship. Rather than criticizing one’s partner, it is essential that one claim their own exits. To do this requires much soul searching and honesty and the courage to put into words the feelings that had been expressed as a behavior. Paradoxically, that begins to close the exit, because it restores connection.”
With the enforcement of a lockdown, couples had no option but to close their exits; it happened overnight with little notice or choice. Covid 19 had thrown them together, outing their attachments styles.
“He doesn’t allow me space; he always wants to know where I am in the house.”
“No I don’t, he’s so dramatic! I only want to know what he’s doing. He’s always trying to avoid me and we’re not having sex.”
The complaints and needs of the couple shout loud and clear through the computer screen. The wave of resentment vibrates around the therapy room. The work has been hard, trying to manage their expectations of me, and the therapy. For some, therapy became their exit – requesting ‘military style’ homework and extra sessions. But then, as things do, the panic calmed down – theirs and mine. Their irritation with the ‘other’ subsided, and they slowly started to work on being with an ‘other’.
For me, the challenge to deliver sessions online and be fully present left me exhausted at the end of the day, but this got easier with time. Relaxing into this new way of working allowed me to see the benefits (therapeutically) of working online. Being given a glimpse of my clients’ worlds helps me understand their perspective and challenges. I am now ‘in’ my clients’ homes, and with that brings the children,dogs, cats and snakes… but, most importantly for me, it brings hope, hope that they are not alone, and things can change.
My client appears on the Zoom screen. His camera is facing the ceiling. The camera is facing the floor. A dog appears. A dog disappears. Eventually he connects to video then disconnects it…eventually he connects it again. The dog is back. Just the audio to go now…
Keeley Mardon – Aurora Therapy Centre LDPRT Alumni 2018
Hendrix, Harville. 2005 Getting The Love You Want. London: Simons & Schuster UK Ltd
The views and opinions expressed in these blog posts are held by the author(s) and are for general interest in the field. These blog entries do not attempt give advice to the reader, they are for educational and information purposes only.