A human. Isolated. Possibly the only person left on the planet after a virus breaks out and leaves the world in disarray. And yes, this is actually reference to another film and not the reality of the lockdown that we are currently experiencing. I am sure though that anyone can currently relate to the character of Will Smith in “I am Legend” (2007) on a completely different level than when the film was initially released.

It is fascinating this fascination of ours as a species with end time events. We create so many stories with this idea, this concept, of how it will all come to an end. Mark Manson refers to the “uncomfortable truth” as something that we try to avoid. Yes, maybe he is right in that we avoid it, but we are also drawn towards it (which might make Sigmund Freud’s concept of “thanatos” relevant). Maybe our “Hollywood”-efforts are a way for us to make this more palatable?

* As a side note: I have noticed a few challenges being laid down on social media platforms recently with regards to keeping yourself busy during lockdown. I wonder how many apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic films and/or series there are to watch during this period? *

The recent events and the isolation that has followed with this lockdown is a new experience, at least for our generation. Many a generation of our species (and other species too) have experienced a similar process before where a major event, such as war etc., changes the known experience of our existence.

In my previous attempt at this new endeavour of blogging the focus was on change and how adaptability is important in confronting it. This seems to be a nice continuation in the connectedness (insert ironically or coincidentally if you prefer to see it as disconnected events) of life. In not knowing what the future will hold, we are now experiencing major changes. What does a pandemic mean for psychotherapy, at least for the short term?

Well, I am a firm believer that therapy is what happens in between sessions. That the actual work, the opportunity for change, growth, confrontation etc., occurs in between sessions. Is this then not an opportunity for change? Seeing the lockdown as a space between sessions or maybe even a space between life as we know it and life as we will get to know it after these 21 days have unfolded.

 

What if…

  • this is a time for reconnecting to yourself;
  • this allows for relationships to be re-established;
  • this hands you the initiative to establish and maintain healthy boundaries;
  • lockdown is the space you needed for reflection;
  • this makes us rethink our priorities;
  • this redefines our purpose and the way we make use of social media;
  • this is what you actually needed?

On the other hand, …

A phrase I learned from my studies would however not allow me to just stop asking questions there. For (and I am paraphrasing here) “it is never either or, but always both and”. In as much as this time could be an opportunity for growth and change, it could also be one of great isolation, conflict and confrontation. One of extreme disconnect and losing yourself. A pre-existing condition (as experienced individually or in relationships) now being exacerbated by the lockdown. Some of the obvious conditions I can think of is the experience of domestic violence, obsessive compulsive disorder or illness anxiety disorder (hypochodriasis). Others might not reflect psychopathology so much as just manifestations of behaviour that is not functional or barely functional such as procrastination.

For these cases psychotherapy would still be required during the pandemic lockdown. It could be argued to be an essential service. How to go about providing a service that is usually face-to-face, yet would be in contradiction to the stay at home motto of lockdown?

Telepsychology

Telepsychology is the practice of psychotherapy when making use of telephonic or virtual platforms for remote consultation. This would appear to be psychotherapy’s answer to the question. Psychotherapy needs to be just as adaptable to changing environments as us, by making use of what is available and to make it work. Psychotherapy also needs to be finely tuned or attuned to the nuances of an ever-evolving context that is called life. Psychotherapy during the time of a pandemic should exactly only still be that: psychotherapy. Flexible. Tailored. Containing. Context sensitive. Person centred.