by Staff writer
What should our new normal look like? Here’s what we’ve learned from 2020!
Before we begin: a warm welcome to all our new followers! It’s great to have you with us, and we hope you find our insights helpful, particularly at a time when so much of how we work and care for people has required constant shifting and creativity during this time of pandemic. We hope this springboards discussion across our network – please see the end of this post if you’d like to contribute comments or thoughts.
Those of you who are return readers may have noticed that it’s been some time now since we last updated this blog with content. The team here at JSA Psychotherapy have been working on a lot of things since that time, as the past year has been a time for us to rearrange many of our priorities and reassess how we approach the work that we do.
We’ve been working on lots of things since then. 2020 has been a time for us to rearrange many of our priorities and reassess how we work. Incidentally, the topic of discussion for this month is one that’s been on all our minds for some time, and is now cause for some reflection.
In this post, we will be exploring how the pandemic, and all the changes that have come with living in nationwide quarantine, have fundamentally and irreversibly disrupted our previous ways of doing things. To do this, we’ll focus on the ways in which these circumstances have been negative and positive, and how we’re finding ourselves responding to changes we couldn’t have expected.
By far the most significant change for those in our position has been the move to remote working. Last March, the sudden need to adapt to a nationwide lockdown resulted in an immediate concern that our practice would have to discontinue therapy. Within hours we were reactively assessing how we could adjust our methods to uphold our mission statement in meeting the needs of our dependents, and what resources we had available to achieve that.
Among our most challenging hurdles to face was the continuation of services which cannot be comparatively delivered outside of an in-person setting. Most significant was the BACP’s stipulation that under 16s were not to be seen via online therapy, which led to a massive drought in the work with children that we had previously come to rely on. Even with those specific restrictions now lifted, allowing us to work remotely, we continue to find that young children are much more capable of accessing therapy in person.
This is also true for some adult clients as well, particularly those receiving clinical support through therapeutic models such as EMDR. Though many practitioners are finding creative workarounds for the somatic delivery of bilateral stimulation, the physical presence of the client’s therapist can provide a degree of tangible reassurance during the processing of traumatic memories that is difficult to replicate appropriately.
Thankfully, our experience of rising to the challenge of remote working has been extremely positive for the most part. Overnight, we changed the very foundational methods of delivery for the service we provide. Within the next couple of days, we had all the adult therapists on our team set up to work online with their clients.
This graph indicates the shift in how much clinical work we have been providing remotely over the last three months. Of the work still done in person, the significant majority is of clinical interventions that can only be conducted effectively in this way (such as the aforementioned EMDR model and our child therapy). This time last year almost none of our therapy was conducted remotely at all.
Most encouraging about this process has been the enthusiasm our team demonstrated in collectively achieving this goal. We’ve had access to this technology for years, with only tangential deliberation about whether it was viable or necessary, let alone the benefits it might bring. In the end, it has been a surprising catalyst for positive development.
We’ve discovered from discussing these changes continuously with the clinicians in our organisation that they feel far more relaxed and confident than before to be following a process that feels more streamlined. Travel expenditure (in terms of effort, time and cost) has been drastically reduced and our therapy team have been enabled to comfortably fit more people into their caseloads as a result.
We’ve also noticed many small, unexpected benefits that could only have been revealed through experience. For example, we have always held that it was best not to cross the boundaries of a clinical therapeutic environment and the client’s home space; one should be kept distinct from the other. However, we’ve noticed increasingly that many clients have felt much more comfortable and at ease receiving therapy in their homes.
One of our initial concerns was that it would be more difficult to develop interpersonal connections in the therapeutic process when client and clinician weren’t in the same room together. However, receiving therapy at home can cross engagement barriers in unique and novel ways. A moment of quiet reflection being interrupted by a pet jumping onto their owner’s lap unannounced, is as much an opportunity to laugh together as it is to be frustrated. It’s another way in which we have been forging a path through new and uncertain territory as professionals and refining a new skillset to adapt to it.
Perhaps the greatest source of introspection for us has been in the changes we’ve seen in therapeutic work that has been contracted to us through the family justice system. In practice, negating the evidently-unnecessary requirement for our clients to commit to attending regular sessions in person has removed massive obstructions to accessibility. When considering the magnitude of exertion necessary to keep up with being involved in multiple meetings with a range of involved professionals for those in legal & care proceedings, especially if reliant on public transport, is it reasonable to expect consistent attendance to so many appointments as the minimum standard by which we can consider our dependents willing to engage in constructive intervention? Does such a sentiment reflect an attitude to social care that is collaborative and humanistic or condemnatorily dismissive?
Almost an entire year now since the first lockdown began in the UK, the extent of suffering that our society has endured as a result of the virus speaks for itself. However, suffering was undeniably present before Covid 19’s arrival. With so many expectations and old routines dismantled out of necessity, the responsibility falls to us to not only develop approaches to our work that are more efficient and effective, but also to acknowledge the more intimate challenges affecting the people who that work is intended to benefit and continue to critically examine the extent to which foundational aspects of our practice challenge societal inequality, and instances where we are its instrument.
This is a topic that we would ideally like to revisit in the future. In coming to understand the impact of the last year, we have profoundly benefitted from broadening our perspectives and engaging our professional peers in discussion. We would be grateful to hear from you regarding your experience of adapting to working in quarantine – how much of your service is being delivered remotely? What have been the most challenging, surprising or fulfilling experiences for you in this way? Please let us know by following this link. If you have more in-depth insights you’d be happy to share, please feel free to do so by sending an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastly, if you are a counsellor or psychotherapist who is looking for freelance work at the moment, please consider joining our team of associates.