This pandemic has not been easy on any of us. Our lives came to a complete stand still. How we worked changed completely and work from home became the new normal. Even as a therapist, it became impossible to see clients in person, and taking sessions on phone or video calls was the only resort left.
The thing with a psychologist-client relationship is that it relies a lot on their connection, and being present in their physical space sort of helps build that relationship between the two. In terms of building rapport with the client, it has been a lot more difficult to do so in the context of virtual therapy. If that basic foundation isn’t built well in the first place, it is a lot more difficult for both parties involved to be invested in that relationship. Communication with clients, scheduling, rescheduling, all of it is overwhelming when it is all happening at once, and now you have 10 unread emails, with no motivation to reply to any of them.
Productivity has been a little too difficult for me during these times. Being a freshly post-graduated psychologist, looking for non-existent jobs during a global pandemic, has been extremely daunting. As much as I want to push myself to work, this whole anxiety related to not being good enough because I haven’t found a job yet, often pulls me back. Sounds a lot like toxic productivity, I realize that, and it probably is. I do end up valuing myself only based on my level of productivity.
Toxic productivity is the unfair expectation that we should be able to stay productive, even reach new milestones, during adverse situations like the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s an idea that expects us to feel guilty if we haven’t worked hard and used our time extra effectively.
You end up putting this pressure on yourself to be in a good mental space at all times, being a mental health professional and all, and even if you aren’t in a good space, you make yourself available to help others. Not sure if this is just me, and I’d like to know if this is a toxic productivity pattern that others suffer from as well. Sometimes, working from home doesn’t feel like work to me, I’m used to being so constantly busy with something or the other, that having time to myself during the day makes me feel like I’m not doing enough.
One thing that also wavered my confidence was that clients in online therapy tend to slack off really easily, and ghost you a little too often. Not trying to play a blame game here, they might’ve had their reasons, but it was happening a little too often. Frankly, initially I thought there was something wrong with me so to speak, but later I realized that this was the case with most of my colleagues. The situation still sucks but it was good to know that I wasn’t alone in it, I guess?
At the end of the day, a therapist-client relationship is a two-way street. It goes a long way if one person takes a step forward too. Considering the fact that we’re going to be in this situation of work from home for the months to come, a little more consideration from the client’s side can help the therapist feel better as well. Something as simple as not ghosting your therapist and telling them that you wouldn’t like to continue, or that you would like to reschedule. We’re humans too, after all.
Another factor that comes in with the whole work from home, stay at home thing is that your outlets for unwinding yourself reduce by a great deal. Had a tough day at work, went and chilled with my friends, and the day seems a lot less stressful. But now, where do you go with all that frustration? Back on the couch, binge-watching reruns of that same old sitcom?
All in all, online therapy is great in terms of it’s reach and convenience, but I would much rather prefer to have face-to-face sessions with clients, whenever that may be possible.
Effective ways to deal with feeling ineffective:
1) Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, instead of ignoring your feelings. If it helps, start journaling to keep a track of your thoughts and feelings.
2) Rest. Take a break. Let yourself just be. We tend to see rest as a reward instead of a necessity. When you take a break, do nothing or invest in downtime you’re not shirking responsibility; you’re taking care of yourself so you’ll have the stamina to be your best when you get back to high-value work.