After I finished my last blog about how I transitioned to virtual practice, I have finally come to terms with my relationship with tele-therapy. Not to say that I feel confident about it, but at least I am able to look at the process more candidly, which is a good sign to me. I figured, instead of coming up with yet another to-do list, sharing some of my happy little accidents and “aha” moments may connect us better as we are all in such a novel and uncertain time together.
HAPPY LITTLE ACCIDENT #1
It did not occur to me till the end of the first month of my virtual practice that I should check with my liability insurance company regarding provisions and policies around tele-therapy. As I was scrambling up a to-do list with the rapid development of COVID-19, the thought that I already had my malpractice insurance somehow gave me a sense of security that I was all good. Thinking back now, even though the thought turned out to be more of a false impression, it brought me a moment of relief during an otherwise stressful time.
HAPPY LITTLE ACCIDENT #2
During the biweekly therapy discussion group I attended, one member shared her virtual-session ritual of confirming the client’s address in case of emergency. At that moment, I realized an additional privilege of sharing a physical space with my clients was that I didn’t have to worry about the whereabouts of my clients if emergency support was needed at any moment. In a virtual context, I would want to have some vital information in case of emergency.
HAPPY LITTLE ACCIDENT #3
Like all “what to do in virtual therapy” guidelines suggest, therapists should have an open and honest conversation with their clients acknowledging any challenges, adaptations and awkwardness involved in virtual therapy. I did that, and I thought the prep work was done.
Shortly after I started my virtual sessions, I was surprised by the amount of notifications I got through my emails, iMessages and social media as I was in session with my clients. I was also puzzled by why I hadn’t noticed all these distractions before. I realized that I can’t multitask on other digital platforms when I intend to be fully present in a session with my client. So I added one more step on my prep work, which is to turn off potential distractions on all my devices. With that in mind, a conversation with the client regarding how they can control virtual distractions could also be beneficial.
HAPPY LITTLE ACCIDENT #4
One of my biggest worries with starting virtual therapy was how to handle the loss of non-verbal messages. I was concerned that the quality of my service would be defined by the inherent limitation of virtual interaction. The prologue that my virtual sessions wouldn’t be as effective as my in-person sessions created a lot of anxiety and stress in me. Of course, my sympathetic system became all fired up and I found myself unable to concentrate.
Unsurmountable problems always seem to be solved by “simple” solutions. Thanks to Joe Kanengiser, the host of our virtual therapy discussion group, who demonstrated the power of asking “silly” questions to bring clients’ attention to non-verbal parts of their experiences. Joe also encouraged me to try narrating my own physiological experiences as our clients may have the same curiosity about our non-verbal messages too.
I hope my happy little accidents can bring you a sense of normalcy during this abnormal time. There are no mistakes when we are exploring and venturing into unknown territories. May your happy little accidents take you to a place of peace and balance.