Far but close: online therapy at the time of the quarantine
The online psychotherapy is a topic that in recent years, with the increase in communication systems has become increasingly topical. The studies conducted spoke of concrete benefits achieved by those who had benefited from it, but most of my colleagues and I personally believed that nothing could replace the human contact that is established in a “traditional” session.
The telematic contact was therefore “quashed” as unsuitable in most cases and I always liked to receive patients in the office, where I could see if they were willing to go in person and where I could welcome them, as my teachers said, as a “Good hostess”.
These days, the issue has returned to the fore. Now that it is no longer a matter of free choice, but of absolute necessity , we must choose how to provide assistance. What do we think of it? Is it possible to do something effective even when standing in front of a screen?
At first, in agreement with many of the people with whom we were working, we decided to take a “little break” pending the reopening of the movements and the improvement of the general situation. The predominant feeling was to be patient, distancing the regular cadence of the meetings a little.
Scientific literature and experience report that, depending on the therapeutic phase, taking breaks (for known reasons or unforeseen events) can be very useful. In these moments people have the opportunity to experiment , in the light of what their path has been, with new knowledge and resources acquired.
Being faced with an emergency like the present one is, in some way, more acceptable for our mind, because we are dealing with an external enemy, common to all; rather than with an internal enemy to fight alone.
After the first few weeks, however, the situation began to change. We are still facing a major crisis, which shows signs of improving, but it will still place limitations on us for a long time.
In addition, increasing the time spent at home, we were exposed without any protection to continuous images, treatments, disquisitions on serious and worrying events. The only ones who could protect us from this media bombardment were and are us.
We are the only ones who, between uncertainty for the present and doubts for the future, can choose and understand if they need to resume therapy or start one.
In this period my vision of the situation has also changed, I have taken up several contacts electronically and I have tried to evaluate their pros and cons.
From a “technical” point of view, I found two aspects that can be useful: the possibility of seeing the other, but also oneself during the conversation and that (in certain cases) of recording the meeting.
In the therapy room this is not possible, but during the training it was very useful that the meetings (following adequate reporting and in agreement with the patients) were recorded.
The benefit for the therapist is to be able to review the session and reassess whether any aspect can be better or differently addressed . The added value is that, in this case, the patient can do it too. It is possible to see each other again in expressiveness and certain reflections which can be reached can be brought with you through registration.
From an emotional point of view, however, what surprised me most was hearing the arrival and transmission of messages as strong as in the therapy room.
Of course, I can no longer evaluate a person’s motivation by seeing if he goes to the studio despite a thousand other commitments, but I can understand if he wants to work and respects the commitment made. I cannot prepare my own setting in which to welcome patients, but I can prepare a collected and stable context and help those on the other side to do the same. I can’t shake hands or offer a glass of water when we say goodbye or face delicate moments, but we can be there. Being there and creating a listening and reflection channel.
This channel can start as an outlet, a moment of recollection and comparison, but what it brings with it is always the same: an evolutionary experience for the person who is in difficulty. And it matters little if it happens through a screen.
This time is teaching us not to procrastinate, starting now, where we are, with what we have and doing what we can. What we have are enough technological tools to maintain a connection; where we are is at home, in a collected and protected environment; what we have are the desire and the need to face and process difficulties and feelings in turmoil.
It is reassuring to know that the connection wire has not been interrupted, that we are always at a “physical” safety distance as well.