A Couples Therapist During Covid-19

I just wrapped up my fourth week of teletherapy. If falling asleep on the couch watching reruns of The Office apart from my family is any indication of my mental exhaustion, I’m not sure what is. I’ve been doing teletherapy for about three years. BUT, nothing could have prepared me for the endurance test of doing full-time teletherapy…during a pandemic.

As Brene Brown has eloquently stated in her new podcast Unlocking Us (click here), we are experiencing a lot of FFTs, Fucking First Times.  I know I certainly am. My mind is full of reactions and thoughts about things I’ve seen and heard over the past month. I want to dive deeper into them and will do that eventually. For now, there are two things that are striking me. The first is how couples are responding to the new landscape. The second is how I am responding to all of this, as a couples therapist.

The two words I’ve been using incessantly in the past are pivot and grace. I’ve seen tons of pivoting and oodles of grace for both couples and therapists. And I’ve seen how the absence of them has caused so much suffering.  Some folks are really struggling. Those who were struggling in February are struggling more now.  Compulsive behaviors and addictions are coming to the surface in destructive ways (Listen to NPR’s Scott Simon interview about addiction during pandemic). Partners are trying to figure out how to respond knowing physically escaping is near impossible. People are resentful for not feeling the safety and trust they so hunger for. Narrow fractures in relationships have turned into crevasses, which are hard to cross.

On the flip side, some couples who were on the upswing have continued to rise. They say that the understanding and skills learned in past months and years has helped them to push harder through this muck. Some have told me they have been preparing for this pandemic for years. And we laugh together!

As for me, my adjustment to teletherapy has had many FFT moments. I’m using my senses in a different way through a computer screen instead of sitting across from humans. The sheer intensity and volume of peoples’ challenges requires me to pivot and be graceful. Frankly, it’s overwhelming as shit. Now, mind you, I worked in technology for a decade and was on tech all the time. But I wasn’t immersed in peoples’ struggles and emotions. This is way different.

I’ve chosen to make part of my life about guiding and supporting humans through difficulties.  So as my phone rings and email fills up with calls for help from new and existing clients I need to accept the FFTs with grace and pivot however I can. And, swearing also helps.

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