Well here’s another blog post related specifically to the current COVID-19 Pandemic. Living in WI and working in both WI and MN, I’ve been double-dosing on the most current information I can safely ingest. Last week the governor of each state officially enacted a Stay At Home order. Additionally, the CDC has advised that travel between WI and MN would require a self-quarantine period of 14 days.
So, I had what would be my final in-person sessions before moving to teleconference options for clients. Interestingly, these last in-person sessions were, from my perspective, less than optimal. Naturally the conversations drifted to the current situation, and detailing thoughts and actions led to interesting explorations of perceptions and reasoning. All good and worthwhile.
But, I found my own thoughts distracted by the practical concerns of myself and my client – Am I socially distanced to 6 feet? What has his exposure been? Am I putting him at risk if I’ve been exposed? I did disclose that I had recently traveled (Las Vegas), so that covers me, right? How am I going to prepare for the next client (i.e. Lysol the chair, wipe down the door if he touches it on the way out, etc.). As a practitioner who touts being ‘present’ a primary aspect of therapy, these sessions were troubling.
So, honestly, it was somewhat of a relief for me to suspend in-person sessions.
The next step? Offer teleconferencing.
Skype, Face Time, and the chance to learn about Whats App! Presenting some unique challenges, teleconferencing is at least a viable means of working people. And, I even read a study (link here) showing its effectiveness. So for the foreseeable future, this form of practicing psychotherapy will become my norm.
On a personal note, I find that I can easily work from home. After some contemplation, a few things come to mind as to why:
- I keep a relatively consistent schedule (okay, I’m anal about my schedule). Whether going to the office or working from home, my morning routine is the same, and I finish up about the same time, so the transition from personal to work time is not drawn-out or avoided.
- I create a similar environment whether at the office or home: french pressed coffee in the am, tea in the pm, some non-distracting background music, notepad and pen on the table.
- I allow for breaks. While at home the dog needs walking, perhaps the dishes need to be put away. I get ‘em done, and then back to work.
- I designate a work space. The kitchen table becomes my desk, with everything being set up in the morning and taken down at the end of the day. (I do designate a time of the day to be done working also – again that transition from professional back to personal).
There are some potential pitfalls I’ve recognized, and try to avoid:
- With that dog walk or dish duty, those can easily be an invitation to complete other chores (all in the name of productivity of course). I limit these and keep the chore list small and intentional. Recognize the chore, what it will take to complete it, then do it.
- With long stretches of time, I find myself thinking “Man, I’ve got all day.” Then when 4 o’clock rolls around I wonder what got accomplished and a stressed/anxious feeling can come over me. Getting things done in the am is helpful for me to avoid this. This way I know that what I’ve deemed important will be/has been done.
- It’s too easy to develop the mindset that you ‘have all day’ and therefore allow extra Instagram time (or whatever rabbit hole trips you up).
- Similarly with an entire day open before me, I find myself thinking that there are too many things I can fill time with. This can lead me to become distracted and bounce from thing to thing all the while believing that I’m being super-productive, when in reality I’m just occupying time in order to check some fabricated ‘to-do’ boxes. Instead, I started blocking out larger chunks of time to work on specific areas (reading, writing, emails, etc.).
Well those are my thoughts for now. I have some additional thinking on structuring a day and want to share some specifics. And of course, some philosophical blubbering about possible outcomes of this thing, more on that to come…