As a psychotherapist in private practice in New York, I find myself working remotely, using online platforms like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime. I’m not used to staring at a screen all day long. The need to focus is intense and I’m more tired at the end of the day than I would normally be. I’ve even been able to meet with my two weekly therapy groups online. A lot of people are confined with their family, but many are alone and their regular session with me is now even more important.
I’ve been alone at home for five weeks, leaving the apartment only to get groceries and check the mail, which comes intermittently. My girlfriend Lynn, who lives elsewhere, is recovering from the virus. We haven’t seen each other for over a month, and that’s been hard for us both.
People here are anxious and afraid, and this time the threat isn’t imagined, it’s quite real. Many therapists are as afraid as their patients are. Working online is challenging for both parties, because the feeling of being together is artificial. There is the illusion of physical closeness. I don’t normally sit 12 inches from my patients, but that’s how close I sit to the computer. The focus is more intense. I don’t see their bodies, posture, gestures — only their faces.
One person in the Tuesday group was talking this week about how she looks forward to the group meeting. She lives alone and has been working from home. She sees people from work online but doesn’t get to talk about anything personal except in the group, so it’s important to her.