The (new) Rituals of Therapy
The drive to the office, parking the car, gathering my things, entering the building, setting up my space, saying hi to my colleagues, setting an intention for my work, welcoming you into our co-created healing space, and finally getting to the work of therapy. This is but a glimpse into what I have come to know as the rituals I would engage in on any given day before March 16th 2020.
You have your own ritual, you probably sit in some traffic fearing you will be late to the session. You might fume about the argument you just had that you want to process with me. Finally, you enter the waiting room, make some tea, have a seat, and prepare to take 50 minutes of your life to think about you.
There is something sacred about the healing space of a therapist's office. Some of us (not me) have a knack for creating beautifully curated spaces with healing objects, scents, lighting, etc. that instantly put you at ease. More than the space, the very notion of entering a private place with your confidant creates the foundation for healing, learning, and growth. This is your place to unpack your inner world, your inner family, your most embarrassing thoughts and feelings. It's safe here; you're good. Now that space is split into two: my basement and where ever you find yourself when we meet.
I think it took me a while for the world of telehealth to sink in. I am still getting used to starting most sessions with, "can you see and hear me alright?" That's different.
Remember that time in person when you just disappeared from a session without any notice....me neither.
Remember when people had legs?
Every therapist and client also knows the dreadful experience of someone saying something brilliant, something deeply painful, or something otherwise impactful and hearing the response, "I'm sorry, I missed that. You cut out on my end." Ughh.
I can no longer hand you that box of tissues. Some therapists wouldn't do that anyway....but now, they can't even be tempted. We don't have to navigate the issue of shaking hands or even a hug. Those are simply out of the question these days. We say goodbye by hitting the hangup button and going about our lives. There's no drive home. There's less time to decompress; less time to unwind from the work of therapy.
In the era of COVID-19, I feel grateful that my chief concerns are related to the loss of these finer points of the therapy process. I continue to bear witness to incredible growth and change in the clients I work with. I continue to have meaningful conversations about the important issues facing each of us as humans. I am also aware of the reduction in barriers that the telehealth era has made way for. No commute, fewer childcare worries for some, less anxiety about coming into a strange place to talk with a stranger about challenging stuff, among others.
I have been curating a new set of rituals for myself and talking with clients about the ways that they too can get back to some of those ever-so-important elements of the therapy process that have gone away over these past 6 months.
Set Your Space
For me this is as simple as lighting a candle, getting something to drink, getting comfy, tell your cohabitants that you will be unavailable (unless something is on fire or someone is bleeding), and just prepare that healing space.
Set Your Intention
Close your eyes, breathe, read a passage, say a prayer, meditate, stretch, write down a few thoughts. Remember why you are showing up today. Do what you need to do for you to be present in this space.
Take 5 minutes before your session to turn devices on "do not disturb", make your virtual commute to the office.
While it is always my intention to help you leave a session feeling regulated, you probably still need to decompress. Take another 5, or more, to breathe, jot down some thoughts, and notice what you need before returning to the everyday. You have so much going on from assisting a child with e-learning, navigating COVID concerns, fighting for racial justice, working in person, working remotely, it's all too much. You deserve this time to unwind. If you're feeling extra spicy, TAKE A NAP!
I'm grateful each day to get to do this work. While nothing seems the same as it was 6 months ago, what doesn't change is our connection with each other...
I still see you (albeit a pixelated version sometimes).
I still hear you (often with a lag).
And, I still know that you are worth it.
B'well therapist Jake Jackson-Wolf appreciates the space therapy makes for connection...even when that "space" occurs between two screens.