Starting in June, I began to see some of my clients in the office. A first in nearly 16 months and…wow. My clients are beautiful. That’s what I keep thinking as I sit with them. The subtleties of their eyes and gestures…they way they hold tension in their bodies and catch their breath with emotion…there is so much I miss through the screens. I had one client say, “yeah, I will definitely be coming in person from now on. I get so much more out of therapy this way.” While I cannot say that our conversation that day was qualitatively much different that the ones we had in May, I knew exactly what she meant. The connection felt different. The energy went back and forth with more ease and I could feel our brains mapping each other in a way that is just harder over Zoom. It was just…organic. Easier and more flowing.
I realize that some of my clients will never come back to my office. The ease of meeting online is a huge plus; no pressure to get a sitter for my couples, the ability to meet during a lunch hour, not having to deal with traffic or a long drive. I have many clients that I’ve never met face-to-face and as I review the month, the ones who have come into my office are clients I had seen before the pandemic hit. They know how meeting face-to-face felt before and they are the ones opting to make the trek back to the office. We are so happy to be in the room together again that we share many dumbstruck, grinning moments, marveled at the normal feeling so novel!
By now I have many, many clients that I’ve only ever treated online. For them, they don’t know me in the flesh! I’ve only ever been their telehealth therapist. I wonder if the motivation to come in to the office will ever come? We’ve gotten to know each other through the screen and we’re in a therapeutic groove and so, maybe we just keep it this way. That thought makes me a bit sad.
I think of the couple that murmurs to each other during our sessions while I ask helplessly what they are saying. Or all the times I think that someone has reached over to touch their spouse, but their hands are out of sight. I’m slower to know if my dear clients are tearing up or getting disregulated through the screen as well. I can?t see a jiggling leg or wringing hands or see a quivering lip as easily. And I suppose they are missing much of me as well.
And so, my field has forever changed. We all now settle for ‘not quite as human’ experiences because we’ve trained ourselves to cope and even prefer them. For now, I’ll keep celebrating the gentle thrill of my in-person sessions and soaking in all the humanity I’ve missed this long year.
Yes, it has changed therapy forever. I have been very saddened and burdened to be present with the many children for whom caretakers have decided it is easiest at home. For the child therapists, who for quality of life, have decided not maintaining an office and associated expenses is a good call. I am saddened that I have been the only MH support( soo frightening!) for so many kids because their 20 something therapist finds that social work can be done on the computer while playing with the dog. For 14 mo this, I have been the 1 and only professional present for these kids. To listen face to face. To hear their confusion. And to encourage them that this is tough for all of us and we will get thru this. together. My heart is beyond broken and beat up. But I am determined that they all will have physical presence to the extent I can provide it. Kiddos to you for having options, but I can tell you, my souls resonates with your joy of physical presence:).
I’m going into the office for the first time next week. I have people I’ve never met in person coming in. I think it will be awkward at first but I’m hoping for that exchange of energy that I’ve been missing. Some of mine will never come back as long as insurance continues to pay for telehealth. It’s a mixed bag, eh?
As a physician, I find that in office visits bring considerable more, sometimes undefinable, value to the interaction. I highly recommend listening to Michael Bloomberg Hopkins graduation speech from this May (on YouTube) for inspiring motivation to “gather in person” again.
Linette, what you have done is so, so important for kids. Several of my colleagues who treat children made the decision to see folks in the office. One, who treats one of my client’s kids, even make two housecalls! My clients could swing with the computer, but the kids….harder. You are a hero in my book!
Thank you, Janice, for this lovely description of the exquisite gift of being fully present for that which only meeting in person can impart! I have been seeing clients in my office (Seated 8 feet from me with a HEPA room filter) since June 2020. My long-term therapy group re-started in the office a month ago, exactly a year after we went on-line. The ladies cheered when we were all together, and delighted in meeting the two new group members in person!