Have I found working online and within the confines and pressures of COVID-19 different? I would have to admit the answer to this question is a resounding yes. In fact, it would be an unequivocally yes.
That might beg the question … how so?
This question has nothing short of haunted me during my days, weeks and months working through the COVID-19 period. As a front-line worker at no stage did I stop working. For me to not work, in this field, would have been akin to the captain abandoning the sinking ship … the client in their greatest hour of need. Early on in the unfolding pandemic, I explored client needs and it was certainly affirmative from everyone wanting their psychotherapy sessions to continue through this time. As a result, I obtained advice from the health department on how best to work within the confines of client protection and self-protection. Also, on how best to traverse the many and complex issues including getting to and from work, clothing, surfaces and the like. Once satisfied I did not yield.
The outcome was that the structure of Saydee’s and my workdays changed very little. Though with a lot more surface spray and sanitiser, the content in the room did changed.
Having been faced with the threat of infection; of life or death, people became more honest, and so I became more honest as well?
While I noticed many changes in client behaviour, feelings, and what they brought into the session, I have not gained permission to share those stories, so will share one of the interesting things I noticed about myself during that time.
Slowly, I began to notice I used more humour with clients. I began making comments and remarks that might previously have crossed my mind, but never hit the airways and articulated with the client present.
I reflected on why this might have been after one client made comment, saying he never really thought I’d had a sense of humour, going on to say that he thought I was usually quite serious and professional. Now while at one level I might take that as a compliment, at another, I was left to wonder how my humour had never even made a squeak in his sessions.
Another client used the word ‘droll’ after I made a small quip referencing something she said, and in hindsight, an important awareness for her.
I was fascinated to note that the honesty I was finding in the room, came from a rather archaic part of myself that had potentially been lost in this practice space.
Going back, I recall my father used to refer to me the ‘clown’. This was not unkind nor disparaging, it was a response to his experience of my humour. He would regularly shake his head and say that I should have been on television, such was my drama and comedy.
While I would like to think my humour did not leave my life entirely I can’t help but think that over nine years (plus) in training, 22 years in personal psychotherapy, more than 22 years in clinical supervision, writing for the public and profession on psychotherapy in two books and generally having been train to think before I speak (though this is not always attained to perfection), I would have at some level quelled my cavalier humour.
To take this observation one step further, I wondered if I was regressing into my old family script (https://jofrasca.com/a-life-script/). Was this a part of my early script; to be the funny person in the family. While my lines were amusing, they were an attempt or an adaptation to ‘cheer up’ the hard-working family space.
It begs the question; was this in fact in an enactment in my new workspace. The truth of what it was/is, was difficult to sort in supervision. My supervisor and I became aware of how I was attempting to find some light relief to break the tension of the room / my early home, and that if a client saw a flash of my humour, at this period of time in the world, was that not all bad? After all, session after session continued to be unbearable prolific tension on the part of the client, that did need to be dispersed at some point. Is the psychotherapy room appropriate, I’m not sure? While I would not like to think that I would do that day to day under usual circumstances with clients, the intensity of these days weeks and months and did require some light and optimistic input.
Considering that I did not hesitate to connect with my clients in various ways, other ways, new ways, it was all up for interrogation and criticism. Having said that within my own honesty clients have appeared to show more fear, more distress, more sadness. Invulnerability, honestly and naturalness, have we all been able to find a new way to be together … a sort of new realness?