The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new and unique challenges to many therapists. For myself, transitioning to tele-therapy is not just a steep learning curve, but also a wake-up call to reassess how mental health service may be more permanently shifting towards tele-based delivery in the future.
I have to admit that as recently as two month ago, I had never thought about taking my practice virtual. I was in my own comfortable bubble, telling myself that virtual therapy is secondary (and therefore inferior) to in-person therapy, and there is no need for myself to seriously explore the virtual route. Who could have guessed at the time that I would be transitioning all my practice virtual in just a matter of weeks? As I am cramming crash courses on virtual therapy and participating in fervent online discussion with other therapists, I notice shifts happening within me.
I regret staying within my comfort zone of what I believed therapy should be, while writing off the value of virtual therapy without exploring its benefits. It’s freeing to admit to myself that because I had bound myself to a preconceived bias towards virtual therapy, the work with my clients had therefore been relegated to a secondary position too.
Once I called a truce upon the war on hierarchizing various forms of therapy, I found a sense of inner peace and regained the energy and focus to understand how I can support myself and my clients to transition through unknown and uncertain circumstances. I had almost forgotten to keep a consistent intention and curiosity I have for myself and my clients. This consistency is precisely what will give me control over my clinical work, before, during, and after the COVID-19 crisis.
With that in mind, I want to share three things that I have learned over the past two months, which have helped me to feel settled about being unsettled with the transition process.
Honest Self Check-in
Just like our clients who have different preferences and openness to virtual therapy, we, as therapists, are the same way. It is totally normal and ok that our comfort levels towards virtual therapy are different. Acknowledging and accepting the parts of virtual therapy that maybe make us feel awkward, self-conscious or incompetent will help to calm our emotional brain, so that we can remember the parts of therapy work that we love.
It’s a Collective Experience We Share with Our Clients
Therapy work often involves helping clients transition through changes and fostering growth. We are in a unique situation where we are transitioning and adjusting with our clients together. This collective experience of adapting to a new normal may serve as a unique clinical opportunity, because what can provoke and trigger us, may likely echo with our clients’ experiences. This shared experience gives me a stronger sense of solidarity and appreciation.
There Is No Rush
As much as the past 2 months feels like 2 years, it is really not a long enough time for anyone to completely convert in-person mode to virtual mode while handling and coping with all other personal, social, financial, emotional and physical challenges brought forth by the pandemic. We often tell our clients who are in the midst of changes that it is ok to take their time and there is no rush to get to the finish line. It’s important to remind ourselves of the same. After all, we’re human too.
After two months of exploring and experimenting with virtual therapy, I am still riding the waves of my learning curve. I feel more at ease, open and settled about the idea of virtual therapy. I am grateful that I live in a time when virtual therapy is a viable option for me to connect with my clients. And now, I am even hopeful to see that after we get through the pandemic together, there will be more options available to us as therapists, which means we can then decide how we want to deliver our services. For our clients, this also means that they can decide how they want to engage with mental health services based on their own needs.