By Anna Passyn, LPC
The New Normal, a phrase I’ve grown to dislike the more it’s used and the more it refers to situations and outcomes that seem anything but normal during this pandemic, may correctly and truly describe something. Finally. Teletherapy.
Six months ago, when we were naively contemplating how the year would unfold, my colleagues and I discussed teletherapy from the comfort of our offices. What would it be like? For us? For our clients? What would we miss? Interestingly, we spent very little time discussing what we, and our clients, would gain. We worried that the work would not be as effective, a concern which research refutes; we were concerned that we would lose the connection to our clients, a worry that has not been borne out in practice.
As we move into the fifth month of all virtual practice, we are learning a lot; and we are learning that there are more advantages than first suspected. Clients are beginning sessions right after a run, getting children set up with a project in the next room or while sitting outside in the sun. The absence of the commute time, the hassles of traffic and additional time away from home have become a consistent source of “gain” expressed by our clients. And that holds true for therapists as well. We are now able to exercise ourselves and/or our dogs between sessions, touch base with partners and children for a meal or a quick in-person conversation. We also see clients and therapists experiencing an intimacy that is new and different. Child therapists are seeing the toys their clients play with for comfort and connection; seeing our clients’ homes, learning what they surround themselves with and where they find solace are new insights gained by this way of connecting. And, while some clients have a hard time finding the spot in their homes that provides privacy and quiet, when they do find that spot many also find an ability and willingness to open up to their therapists in new ways – at ease in their own, comfortable spaces, clients are able to fully relax into the moment.
So, what will be the New Normal? With evidence supporting the effectiveness of teletherapy, and now with an abundance of experience that points to its benefits, it seems teletherapy is here to stay. The New York Times reports (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/09/well/mind/teletherapy-mental-health-coronavirus.html) that many therapists are now intending to offer teletherapy after the lift of pandemic restrictions. The potential gain of scheduling flexibility and the comfort felt by clients is likely going to make teletherapy the best choice for many. And many therapists prefer retaining that flexibility as well. Finally, something that feels normal as part of the New Normal.