As a psychotherapist, my work is all about connection. It’s about supporting my clients by cultivating an understanding of who they are and where they’ve been.
But therapists are people, too, and we have our own issues. We fight with our partners, apologize to our kids for bad parenting moments, get sick, lose loved ones, the list goes on. We often have to put our stuff aside in order to focus on the client’s reality, and our ability to do that is a skill honed with years of practice. It eventually becomes a fairly effortless part of the work.
My work feels different since the onset of this global pandemic. Putting my own stuff aside is far from effortless, it’s sometimes impossible. It feels like I should join in my client’s pain and fear — not maintain the objectivity required to offer an alternate perspective. It would be pathetically inauthentic and patronizing to behave otherwise. We are all sitting in the muck trying to figure out what this all means and how to survive it.
Now, and awkwardly at first, through a screen and a microphone, clients talk to me about their anxiety, their intense fear of the grocery store, their obsessive thoughts about their loved ones dying alone. They talk to me about not knowing what day it is, about not being able to sleep. They wonder if they’re doing enough for their elderly parent who lives alone, or for their three children who resist doing school work. They talk to me about their sadness over the loss of their jobs, their hard-earned nest egg, about moodiness, the need to get space from their partners, feeling paranoid every time they cough or get a chill.
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