Life changed drastically in March when shelter in place began in the Bay Area. Our lives continue to be impacted in multiple and ongoing ways since then.
One of those ways is that psychotherapy is now conducted via video ( or by phone). In many ways therapy is the same, and in other ways it is different. We are still two people having a confidential and evocative conversation about your life. And yet meeting on video has literally altered the way we see each other and the ways we are able to interact.
There is a certain intimacy about meeting in our homes, seeing bits and pieces of our lives outside the office. There may be interruptions: children, pets, doorbells, partners, roommates. Privacy and good WiFi may be issues at times. Video platforms are not perfect and there can be interruptions, poor quality video or audio, or wavy Zoom wallpaper.
Rituals have changed. Beginnings and endings of sessions are no longer punctuated by being met in the waiting room, walking to and from the office door, sitting down, getting up, the information that comes from being physically in the presence of another. Instead we both log into Zoom and you wait to be admitted to the call. There is often a hand wave at the end of the call, a poignant new ritual to end a session instead of walking out the door.
There is no longer time spent getting to and from the office, or in the waiting room before sessions; this was often a time to muse, think, feel, to be with yourself before and after your session. Now you have to purposefully make transition time, which I highly recommend.
We are now literally talking heads to each other. I had a newer client comment recently that she has never seen more than a portrait view of me! Our faces are life size on the screen, much closer than we would be with each other in the office. There is often more eye contact than there might be in the office, where you might look away more frequently for various reasons .
Recently I have begun going into the office a couple of days a week to work virtually. Clients who previously met me in my office have commented happily "You are in your office!" It is a familiar place, formerly as much a part of the therapy as the two of us were, a place that holds their secrets, sorrows, joys, hopes and fears.
And thankfully we are adaptable beings! Video psychotherapy is a different experience in many ways, yet also still the same two people connecting in whatever way we have available during this strange and unsettling time. I am grateful that psychotherapy is still possible, even more important and essential during these times.
Contact me if you would like to try video psychotherapy
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley