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Counseling amidst the Coronavirus: While video sessions are good, nothing can replace face-to-face sessions.

Counseling & Coaching, Uncategorized0 comments

Image by Grief Recovery Center from Pixabay

After nearly two months of being locked down and tucked away in my home office, I finally saw my first client in-person this week.  While some clients are more cautious and have no issues with teletherapy, others have been asking if they could see me in-person.

So with a few safety adjustments to my office (mainly ensuring 6 feet of distance between us, requiring hand-washing of clients, etc.), I re-opened with little fanfare.  But what was noticeable was how alive, energized, and rejuvenated I felt compared to the endless Zoom sessions I’ve been accustomed to that left me emotionally and physically drained, depleted, and exhausted.

I think part of this has to do with humanity’s need for real human interaction.  Despite what the best technology can offer us, the real-life experience of sharing an embodied space between others can not be replicated.  The energy between people is real and palpable in-person whereas a computer or phone screen acting as a conduit can only go so far.

Now, I’m not discrediting the advantages of video sessions for therapy as it does offer a connection to clients drowning in isolation, depression, or anxiety during these times.  But what online counseling can not do is offer the shared space of being physically present with a therapist in their midst.  This is so critical in an era where technology is believed to reign in many other fields or professions.  

Call me old-school but nothing, and I repeat nothing can truly duplicate sitting in the same room with my clients.  In an office (or another therapeutic setting), I can see you.  I can see all of you.  The nuanced facial gestures such as the pursing of your clips. the slouching of your body, or at times the need to lay prostrate on the couch due to feeling emotionally immobilized.  In return, I as the therapist can offer my own body language to reciprocate a show of empathy, attunement, or synchronicity.  I can lean in, I can bow my head, or I can just give you the look that you know you are understood, cared for, where no words are needed on my part.  

By comparison, the video sessions put undue strain on us to constantly “talk”.  There’s little time to pause, gaze, cry, or just be.  The video sessions can not “hold” you the way a traditional counseling space can.  It can not give you the container to truly be present with your counselor because you may be connecting from your home, your work office, or within your own vehicle.  These are poor substitutes as they are often rife with distractions in your surroundings (e.g. kids, dogs, neighbors, etc.), not to mention the annoyance of having to repeat yourself because due to technological hiccups like a lost connection or momentary freezing of audio/video transmissions.

The bane of my therapeutic existence is when a client is in grief or expressing something emotionally charged and I have to say, “I’m sorry, you froze during those last 30 seconds when you were spilling your guts out…now can you repeat that?!” I don’t use those actual words but you get what I’m saying.  It’s a cringe-worthy moment to ask someone to repeat an experience that wasn’t meant to be repeated.  If teletherapy has taught me anything, it’s that the human-to-human, face-to-face, in-vivo moments of our lives do matter, no matter what you may say otherwise through your video screen.

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