Where’s The ‘Remote’? | Counselling during Covid-19

May 11, 2020 10:23 am Published by

Our Diploma and Advanced Diploma students are responding to social distancing measures and adapting to the challenge of delivering counselling remotely.

The sudden and unexpected pandemic has caused us all to adapt our working practices at very short notice, and transition our client work entirely to Telephone and Video Counselling in a way that would have been literally ‘unthinkable’ only months ago.

Read one student’s viewpoint as she navigates the new ‘norm’ of supporting clients.

Often our work recruits the principle of ‘not-knowing’ but I can’t help thinking a worldwide pandemic pushes this notion to the extreme. So when the call came to move our face-to-face sessions to ‘remote counselling’, my immediate response was abject dread – especially since my love affair with FaceTime to date runs to a narcissistic preoccupation with my own grainy thumbnail. It felt as if there was as battalion of issues to navigate, for example, how to I ensure my client’s discretion with three wunderkind running ragged and does a scantily clad portrait constitute an appropriate back-drop? Scrambling to exhaust every ancillary training offered on remote counselling, I galvanised as I prepared to change tack and dial in to my first Zoom session. Nota bene – I observe my use of wartime vernacular – it’s not unconscious!

I realise now it wasn’t changing tack in terms of what I was offering, rather how I was offering it. To my delight, any misgivings I had about creating a ‘good-enough’ experience have fallen by the wayside. The tenets of the work remain – the alliance, the negative transference, the mugshot – the good, the bad and the ugly.There is no denying that telephone, and moreover, online counselling has a two-dimensional quality.

Although the complete sensory experience of another has its moments, I miss the palpable feeling of my clients in the room and what it is telling me. But there is also learning. In most circumstances, the experience has allowed new material to emerge and to be thought about, particularly around space.

It seems that isolation has brought some clients closer to their early experiences – some feel trapped, perhaps echoing feelings of unconscious impingement; others describe the familiar overtones of abandonment. And I remain alive to what they bring – I’m moved, I’m furious, I’m entertained, I’m deskilled – often all at the same time. So it would seem we’re not remote at all. Perhaps a more helpful and accurate moniker for what we’re offering currently is ‘online counselling’ because to be remote suggests that we’re removed both physically and emotionally from our clients.

Yet in my experience, we remain proximate, working in the here and now but with a shiny new string to our collective bow.

Advanced Diploma 1 trainee

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