Linda Bishopp MA, DMS, Dip Couns, TFT Alg, Reg MBACP, MTHF
I have always resisted working online. Maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, but in my then small experience of it, it felt more difficult to connect to my client. I felt that I couldn’t feel them well, that I was missing out on body language and therefore missing vital information about my client.
I was not so anxious about working on the phone because I have in the past volunteered for the Samaritans, a rape crisis centre and an eating disorders charity, working almost entirely on the phone and I learnt that phone working requires a different type of concentration, but this can be achieved. More on this in a minute.
Well, I have now, of course, gone over to working entirely online or on the phone. It feels very different, but I am getting lots of information from my clients online. Maybe it’s a different kind of information – I am observing closely my client’s face and reading facial expression; I am hearing the tone of voice and timbre, speed of speech etc – however its seems that I am able to understand a lot about my client via less information, but able to take that in more readily – a version of less is more. I have surprised myself.
On the phone, the work is different again.
One needs to almost isolate oneself and reduce visual input so that one’s senses are focused on what one is listening to. It is a different kind of concentration, but very effective in picking up what is happening for my client. I remember well, working on phone lines, almost being surprised when I surfaced from a long call that, on looking out the window life was still going on, the weather may have changed etc. It is as though one suspends other senses for a while in order to really hear all aspects of what the client is saying and meaning and feeling.
So, don’t rush this, allow yourself to get used to these different ways of working – different both for therapists and clients. Regularly review how you are doing, both with yourself, and talk it through with your clients – after all, they are getting used to this too, especially if they have changed from face-to-face sessions with you to online or the phone. I plan to get better at this as time goes on and may continue to offer therapy this way once we return to normal – who knows I may be joining the 21st Century!!