Pandemic Stress and how it is Impacting our Sessions
As the toll of the pandemic continues on, therapists are seeing the effects becoming more and more present in their sessions. One issue that is being discussed regularly in recent months in our peer consultation groups is difficultly managing emotional regulation by the therapist.
As therapists, we are used to compartmentalizing our lives during our sessions to keep the focus on the client and how to best serve them.
Many of us have experienced a time when something going on in our personal life would at times intrude into our thoughts during sessions.
Since the onset of the pandemic, more and more therapists are struggling to stay emotionally regulated during their clinical work.
I was horrified a few months ago when I found myself being questioned by a client about the vaccination status of our family before the upcoming holidays. Instead of exploring why they were asking, deflecting or using another therapeutic technique, I found myself feeling defensive and activated due to the way this issue was playing out in our family.
I have been practicing a loooong time and had not had that experience in many, many years.
When processing it later, I felt shame, concern for the therapeutic relationship and disappointment in myself.
Here’s the thing though, it is happening to a lot of us right now!
For example, therapists with anxiety are reporting increasing symptoms before and during sessions as their clients discuss the very issues the therapist is also experiencing.
So what is a therapist to do when encountering this in their work?
As much as we don’t like to think about it,
therapists are humans and our own needs have to be a part of the equation of our client work.
Long gone are the days when the sole focus is on what is best for the client. Sure, they are and should be our main focus but if we are compromised in any way, there is the potential for harm instead of good.
And as I have been saying for about a year now, we are looking for OK right now in terms of how people are doing. We need to lower the bar on what we are capable of as we approach 2 years of pandemic living.
None of us knows what our new normal will eventually be but the reality is that getting mental healthcare is becoming more widespread and normalized. While this has been a blessing for those of us working with populations of people who have previously never considered accessing therapy, it also means more clients are seeking services without more therapists to provide it.