Therapy now or when all this is over?

How long do you wait?

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Coronavirus has caused total disruption to our lives.  But our psychological needs haven’t gone away and may even have been intensified by what we’ve been through.  So the potential usefulness of psychotherapy still remains.

It may be that you’re considering whether therapy could be help you.  I’m very aware that making an initial approach to a therapist is often difficult.  Contacting a total stranger to talk about very personal things can be scary at the best of times and it may be even harder at the moment for other reasons.  Two come to mind immediately.

The first is financial.  There’s a lot of of uncertainty around in an economy that’s undergoing great change.  People’s ability to plan for the future is being impacted, not least if a job has been lost or is under threat or if a pay cut is on the cards.

Virtual therapy

The second potentially off-putting factor might be the video therapy (Skype, Zoom etc) that many psychotherapists are currently using.  How effective is that likely to be and what kind of experience does it give?  Wouldn’t it be better to wait until the crisis is over and in-person work becomes possible once again?

Well, of course, we don’t know when that might be.  But it may be worthwhile if I share a few personal reflections on my experience of conducting psychotherapy by video link.  I switched over from seeing clients ‘in the flesh’ to seeing them remotely (using Zoom in my case) as the lockdown came into force in March so I’ve had quite a while to evaluate it.  I’ve been using video for both individual therapy and – to some people’s surprise – group therapy.  And I’ve been impressed by how good it is.  I would say that it has proved itself to be therapeutically effective.

What it’s like?

Clients rapidly get used to meeting online and quite often, when a session is in full swing and important things are being discussed, they and I seem to forget that we’re not actually all sitting in a room.  Most of the things that happen when we’re physically together still happen when we’re meeting by video.  People get very engaged, they’re sensitive to other people’s facial expressions, moods and words, they laugh, sometimes they cry, on occasion they get irritated and so on.

Is it as good?

I’m not saying that remote therapy is as good as in-person therapy.   In my view you can’t beat being in close physical proximity where you can see a person’s whole body, for example, and not just their face, chest and arms.  So, yes, it’s a second best but it’s an awfully good second best.

So ….

As I suggested at the start, a crisis like the one we’re in can intensify our underlying emotional vulnerabilities.  Depression, anxiety and loneliness, for instance, can be exacerbated when some of the normal scaffolding of life – above all close contact with other human beings – is taken away.  If that’s what’s happening to you or if it’s just a case of having had the space to ask questions about the future direction of your life, now might still be a good time to see if therapy could benefit you.  The restrictions will eventually end but in the meantime there may be a really interesting way forward.

Why wait?

© Brian Shand 2020

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Brian Martin Shand

I have considerable professional experience in mental health settings, having worked both in the NHS and in private practice. I am one of the very few trained and qualified group psychotherapists in private practice in Surrey. I also offer individual therapy and counselling. Please see my website for more details.