As a therapist, I was drawn to the Guardian long read (Therapy Under Lockdown: ‘I’m just as terrified as my patients are’, 23 April) but it didn’t resonate with me.
What’s interesting to me is that we are not all necessarily “hapless victims” with “nothing to do but cower in our homes”. Many of us value slowing down, blue skies, clean air, and newly discovered neighbours.
Some couples are facing each other more squarely and experiencing breakthroughs – some parents are enjoying more time with their children. Others struggling with understandable anxiety are valuing the support of therapy. Video sessions – for some – seem to offer greater opportunities for intimacy than face-to-face interactions.
Differing experiences of lockdown may, in many cases, be circumstantial. As for whether therapy can help – perhaps, having trained more recently than Gary Greenberg, I’ve benefited from a different approach. As a hospice practitioner and bereavement counsellor, I learned the value of facing mortality and preparing for death. Furthermore, my professional training at Re-Vision was a training in uncertainty. We were profoundly aware of climate change and environmental destruction – problems we likely wouldn’t solve. We didn’t embark on our careers with the belief that we could necessarily “name our pain” and move on. We learned the art of bearing the seemingly unbearable. In answer, therefore, to Greenberg’s question “Is there a role for therapy in a pandemic?” mine is a very resounding “Yes!”
o There has been some concern in the psychotherapy community about the way our work is depicted in Gary Greenberg’s account of moving his psychotherapy practice online in the context of the current pandemic, not least among those who work with populations of refugees, homeless people, BAME and others who are not strangers to being helpless and unsafe.
Some of us have spent decades dragging psychotherapy beyond a ghetto of white, western, middle-class privilege, and into the real world of multiculturalism, social inequality and postcolonial consciousness. Presenting a pre-1960s, US, private-practice version as representative of psychotherapy in the 21st century is a somewhat less than helpful contribution.
Member of the Institute of Group Analysis and of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union