My partner and I are staying in our holiday house in Paradise Beach, Langebaan, for the foreseeable future. We left our apartment in Green Point on the 25 March after hearing about a positive Coronavirus case in our building. I am so thankful that at a time when the focus and attention of myself as a psychologist is essential, I can continue to support previously established face-to-face therapeutic relationships as well as a few first-time clients, online, via Telehealth.
Telehealth, or ‘distance therapy’, refers to the use of technology for therapeutic needs of clients, who are not located in the same room as the mental health professional. With no real training or experience with long-distance therapy, this pandemic has pushed me to learn quickly how to provide services to my clients that don’t feel too different from when we physically share space in my therapy room. For this reason I encourage clients to have a cup of chai tea, coffee or water before joining our online sessions in the hope that their familiar drink will be nourishing in the same way as when we shared my therapy room before lockdown.
I have encountered some drawbacks to online consulting, such as the guest appearances of pets and young children wanting attention as well as the sudden loss of internet connection, just at the point of an intense interaction. Noticing subtle non-verbal cues of clients through the veil of a screen is becoming less of a challenge for myself as well as for my clients. There is a feeling of camaraderie, and a sense that we can and will help one another to feel at ease in this new online therapy situation, and with each session, it does indeed feel more natural to communicate this way.
In therapeutic sessions we talk about clients’ world view that keeps evolving. I listen, acknowledge and respect all of their feelings; from the pain of loss of normalcy and loss of control, to the devastating effects of isolation and loneliness, from lack of touch and human contact, to fear of catching Covid-19 and possibly dying alone. When possible, we share stories of exquisite joy, fun and moments of peace, even as the feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty continue to push back.
Quite recently, we’ve added to the heaving emotional load, fears of our security and police forces, who we have witnessed acting with a particularly heavy-hand when dealing with non-compliance of the new laws.
Deep muscle relaxation with creative visualisation and music is a skill that I learned and adapted over the past many years primarily to lower anxiety levels, promote pain relief and improve sleep. It is a tool that I have successfully shared in workshops with colleagues, the business community and in my private practice.
Should you wish to try this practice yourself, or add it to your toolkit, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with DEEP MUSCLE RELAXATION in the subject line and I shall send it to you via WeTransfer. There will be no cost to you.