This blog is inspired by a conversation I had on video last night with one of my closest friends. Lysette Herrera is a psychologist who has been seeing clients for many years now in Seattle, New York City and currently in Portland where she has worked for a group practice the past chunk of years. She sees mostly teenagers and has formed strong bonds with her clients whom she has been working with long term.
Upon switching to tele-health, like many therapists, she was nervous and unsure how sessions would feel over a video versus in person. We tend to see technology in a negative light and to think that screen connection is less intimate. Yet to her surprise, Lysette found her sessions to be very intimate. She discovered clients having an easier time being vulnerable when sharing from the comfort of their home and she has met many of her client’s pets too, which as we all know, are important family members.
Lysette has found that video sessions are not more intimate, per se, but differently intimate. I have found this to be true too. Lysette named the experience I have had this past week using tele-health. I too have experienced that differently intimate experience of connecting from our homes. The power of place is real. Home is a safe place and a comfortable place. When we feel safe and comfortable we tend to open up more and this allows therapy to go deeper.
Lysette mentioned that another positive aspect is that a certain amount of formality is shed through video sessions. This speaks to how I feel the pandemic is stripping away the persona and the formality in us all. The roles we put on in order to communicate are changing. Our humanity and vulnerability are coming more to the surface. As a result, sessions feel more powerful. Add the video element, allowing both therapist and client to connect from home, and the intimacy does feel very differently powerful.
I feel no less of a connection through having video sessions. The screen does not get in the way. I have not asked my clients about their experience yet but I imagine it is different for each person. Some people are more sensitive to screens and technology and others may actually prefer it. I can only say for myself, in many ways, I prefer video sessions because I enjoy the differently intimate experience that it creates. I also enjoy working from home.
I do miss going to my office and having a special physical space to see clients. My office is filled with crystals, cards, incense, and the vibe I work hard to create. I share my office with a friend and we share office space with another therapist we rent from. I love our physical space and location. The three of us create a very harmonious healing environment. Video sessions do not replace the in person experience but now I now know that tele-health is complimentary and not just a “plan B”.
Since the pandemic I have been spending a lot of time connecting with friends through video as well. My days in quarantine are spent sitting in my special chair where I video everyone. In-between connecting with clients and loved ones I do yoga, walk, get groceries, watch Netflix, meditate, read, journey, reflect, and pull cards. I am finding my new routine. I empathize with everyone who lives alone needing to find a new routine in the aloneness.
Living alone through this time is very surreal. All of my connection with others is through video except sometimes I take a walk with a friend nearby. I don’t have any physical touch, nobody to “prepare for the worst” with, nobody to be with in my home. Solitude takes on a new form that often feels too hard or like it’s too much. Anxiety can creep in. There is a lot to manage being alone. Therapeutic skills are extra vital as is keeping a routine.
I am beyond thankful I can continue to see clients through video as it is grounding to be of service. I am thankful to be able to continue to work. Many cannot and surviving monetarily is a real concern for many. This pandemic is going to force us to find new ways to be resourceful and take care of each other. It is forcing us to care more about community and our neighbors and not just for the self and immediate family. I think of my father who is all by himself in his eighties. I think of the service industry people out of work right now. The chain reaction of the virus will create much needed structural change on many levels.
Being connected through video is my life’s blood right now and I am learning to embrace the screen more through this challenging time. My intention is to highlight the positive to bring balance to the more prominent negative lens that tele-health and video connecting is somehow inferior or less connected.
During these challenging times tele-health is needed more than ever and my hope is that it becomes more of a norm in society. My dream would be for our licenses to be national or even global. For as therapists we are trained to work with humans, not just humans in one area.