When our practice went entirely virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic nearly a year ago, our patients also had to adjust to online therapy while dealing with fear and uncertainty, economic challenges, and childcare struggles. At first, they simply needed help. People were afraid.
As the first few weeks of quarantine went on, there was, for many patients (and some on the team), some hesitation about “returning” to the work we started before COVID: rooting out past traumas, looking at patterns in relationships, exploring new job opportunities, etc. Many wondered: Shouldn’t everything be “about” COVID now? Others are struggling more, what are my problems in comparison?
The question of what it means to live a good life and what to do with stability and privilege is a meaningful one in therapy. For most, however, it’s a false choice. Our ability to do and be good in the world isn’t served by sacrificing the need for us to create the conditions of our own thriving. And, for many, this hesitation is a habit that began long before COVID: a struggle to meet one’s own needs in the face of others’ suffering (e.g. a sibling or a parent who is unwell).
And so we carried on, perhaps with a deeper sense of meaning. For many, therapy became more vital. Some of our patients got COVID (and recovered); very few of the rest got sick at all (the benefits of quarantine). Some enjoyed the respite from socialization or the time with family or a partner. Many used the space to examine life more deeply–a sort of unexpected prolonged period of reflection.
One practical reality of the remote work and quarantine was that patients rarely missed sessions. They, like us, just had to keep getting creative with finding places for their phone and video chat therapy. Here are some of the places we saw our patients (and sometimes, their kids and pets, as well as their art) this year:
Painting trim in a child’s bedroom
A completely empty trading floor at a bank
The back of a limo
Work conference rooms
On moving day
Bathtub (sans video)
Washington Square Park
In the car
Driving to a cabin
Driving on a long bridge.
While driving on the Belt Parkway during a road trip
A car parked at the beach in winter (dreamy)
In a ski lodge in Vermont
Near the ocean in Hawaii
Maine (in the snow)
The beach in New Jersey
A walk through the woods in the Catskills
Riding on an ATV in the Catskills (yes, that’s right–WHILE riding)
A hotel room in a two-week quarantine
A childhood treehouse in a parent’s backyard
A spare bedroom in an empty home being remodeled
And lots and lots of walks around the block.