Sometimes life leads us in a new direction that we might not have otherwise taken. For years I have done therapy in an office setting. It has been important to me as a therapist to have a space with all of my tools at hand—books, charts, sand trays, games, music, handouts, art, and always Kleenex. My offices have been “sacred spaces” that offered a quiet, peaceful and confidential atmosphere. Each office has been special in its own way, and I fondly remember each of them.
Now, the pandemic has provided a startling new direction—virtual office! For me that has been phone therapy with email and text contacts. Being able to look into another person’s eyes and observe body language and nuances is helpful in assessment. But, the lack of these has heightened another, even more important assessment, deep listening. This is the kind of listening with no visual distractions.
My tele-clients seem to like this change as well. There is no rushing to get to an appointment on the lunch break or after work. An appointment begins with a text or email asking for an appointment. I then text back available times, and we look for a time that works. At the designated time, the client calls me and we begin our session much like an office session. Some clients say that they are more comfortable not having to “dress up” or find a parking place. Gone are the days when I offered tea or coffee, but clients can have their favorite beverage ready for the session. One of my younger clients has his appointment each time from his car because that is a place of privacy for him.
Although working from home has the perk of casual dress, I always sit at my desk and honor the time as I would for a professional appointment to help keep my work and my personal life separate. The best part is just the ability to listen to the words and the pauses as my client has the chance to speak in their own time and hear themself think. Good questions are an important part of therapy. Often there is homework given to allow for thinking things through between appointments.
For a complex issue, I usually start with six sessions. There should be some movement or resolution within that time of work. Sometimes the sessions are weekly, and sometimes there is a longer time between sessions. At some point, most clients choose to do maintenance sessions after they have done the necessary work and when they feel ready to check in as needed, even months and years later.
The times and methods are changing. What is constant is the need not to go it alone when there is trouble in your life. Consider virtual therapy and opening a conversation without even leaving home! Even though we are way over hearing, “we are all in this together,” we really are.