Therapy in Times of Social Distancing
Updated: Mar 28, 2020
Staying connected during difficult times
This is a tough time for people all around the world. In the United States we are seeing increasing numbers of people out of work and hits to industries that we never expected to be affected, amid growing fears of widespread illness. Social distancing and isolation are necessary but can contribute to anxiety and depression.
The first priority is safety for everyone, and that means social distancing or isolation, self-monitoring of symptoms, and extra attention to cleanliness. Even for those who are not worried about themselves, it's helpful to protect others who are vulnerable by not being a carrier. Slowing the spread will also help protect our healthcare system from overload. Click here to access the CDC guidelines on helping prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
Making Sense of It All
Much like our physical bodies, our minds are made up of systems. Almost all of us experience ambivalence, sudden emotional changes, and even very normal episodes of "talking to ourselves" -- inner critic, anyone? These are all ways in which the systems of the mind show up. I'll be writing more about our internal systems in future posts.
With the current situation, people may feel understandable inner conflict. "Do I stop going to work even if my employer says I need to come in?" "Am I overreacting?" "This feels scary." "Why doesn't that dumb so-and-so in the grocery line cover their mouth when they cough?" "Whoops, I just coughed without covering my mouth!" Our minds want to problem-solve and analyze, and we can sometimes talk ourselves out of our instincts.
“We relatively normal people are caught in a battle between our gut and our brain.”
- Peter M. Sandman, PhD, and Jody Lanard, MD (retrieved from www.cidrap.umn.edu)
While it's difficult to reconcile all inner conflicts, taking care of ourselves is paramount. Taking care includes not just physical health, but mental and spiritual health as well. Knowing that confusion and internal conflicts are not only understandable but in fact normal can alleviate some of the distress. Try bringing compassion to your own beautiful, complex internal system and its dilemmas.
Technology can help a little. For those with loved ones in a nursing home for example, consider asking the staff if they would facilitate a weekly video call. Try to call, text, or video chat with loved ones who are not nearby. Seeing someone's face or hearing their words, even if it is over the airwaves, can alleviate anxiety and help to offset boredom and loneliness.
If you are already in therapy or are considering engaging in it, ask your provider if they offer telemental health. Most insurance companies cover this service, and your provider will be able to help answer your questions. Rest assured that the same rights to privacy and confidentiality that one has in-person also apply to teletherapy. Ensure that your provider uses HIPAA-compliant software, and that you are in a private location where your session will not be overheard.
Finally, please trust yourself. Trust that your system has the wisdom that you need to get you through these challenging times. Trust that we are all interconnected and that we can maintain that connection even within such drastic constraints. And please be well.