As we approach the year anniversary of our practice going entirely remote in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, it seemed like an appropriate time to reflect. This has been a year of different phases. Initially, we were in triage mode, hyper-focused on getting ourselves set up to work remotely and help our patients do the same, alongside all of the related challenges during a pandemic: health uncertainties, job insecurities, childcare crises, relocation, tremendous stress, relationship stress, getting laid off, having to lay off workers, etc.
What defined those first few months was a situation that’s quite rare for us (9/11 was the best relatively recent example). Both therapist and patient were in the same or similar spots. Like our patients, we were also afraid of the uncertainty and health fears, managing childcare, and managing concern for our jobs and our partners’ jobs. This wasn’t something we could (or tried) to hide. That’s not the norm in therapy. Therapists go through hard times, but because we relate to the primacy of the patients’ needs as sacred, it’s rare that our patients would know it. Even in times of personal distress, we put that aside and bring our best selves to the work. We didn’t waver from our mandate as therapists to put our patients’ needs first, but it was clear to everyone that we were all in similar situations. We were all scared and we were all dealing with uncertainty.
As time went on, many of these concerns remained front of mind, but we also needed to attend to the fatigue of remote work and to examine the need to slide fees for patients hit financially. All of this happened, of course, with the backdrop of intense concern about racial injustice and police violence, especially affecting our patients of color, as well as with the context of national political uncertainty.
To say that our team rallied is an understatement. Therapists revamped their schedules. Some reduced hours to accommodate childcare. Partners pitched in. But we didn’t just maintain the course. We increased our collective supervision hours to reinvest in our commitment to ongoing qualitative growth. We launched Tribeca Maternity, a new branch of our practice for trying, expecting, and new parents and their families, “virtually” launched our new Park Slope, Brooklyn office, which will open for in-person sessions, and spoke with countless reporters about every aspect of how the pandemic was affecting New Yorkers’ mental health and their relationships, appearing in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC, New York Magazine, and Slate, among many others. We also participated, as many did, in a practice-wide examination of our relationship with racism, examining more deeply our clinical and cultural relationship with racial injustice.
On top of this, our practice has been busier than ever while working remotely. All of which has meant we all, as therapists, have had to get creative with our online therapy practices. To look back at this year, we asked our therapists where they have done therapy sessions from, and here’s how they responded:
- My kid’s Harry Potter-decorated closet (while the kids were outside pretending to be werewolves and howling)
- Sitting on a slide at a playground
- My father in law’s office that is now a sewing room
- Kids’ old playroom with a princess castle on the side
- Laying on the floor
- My kids have also walked in on a few sessions, including crying on the floor about missing Coney Island and walking in naked looking for their bathing suit.
Honestly, I’m all over: I’m at my desk (negotiating space with my cat), sitting on the floor hanging out with kids over video, and laying on my couch while I’m on the phone. It’s been really special to share bedrooms and offices, dining rooms, cars, and vacation cottages with everyone, but also to invite them into my house.
My home in Brooklyn! Included in that is my giant plastic bubble in my backyard, which I’ve turned into my “outdoor office.”
I’ve done sessions on my roof, from the park, from a field, and from a parked car.
- Roof deck
- My car
- The beach
- A parking garage
- The park
- My dining room table
- My dining room table
- My dining room table
- The left side of my couch
- The right side of my couch
- The middle of my couch
- Family’s homes in Buffalo and Raleigh
- On the deck of an Airbnb in the Catskills
- Walking my dog in the neighborhood
- Sitting in my empty office, wishing I were face to face with my patients
Primarily from my living room, where I have had the pleasure of reckoning with a mouse problem. More than once in the middle of a session, I’ve been startled by seeing a mouse and completely unable to stifle my reaction. I scream, jump from my chair, and take my patient with me to the couch where I cower with my feet off the ground to continue the session.