Covid, Counselling and Choice
There are many clichés which are emerging with regard to the Covid situation. These are reflected in the constant use of words such as extraordinary, unparalleled and unprecedented. Yet words become clichés for a reason. Right now the reality is that we are indeed living through the most unusual and remarkable of times.
It is likely that all of us have been affected in some way by the pandemic. At the very least our normal pattern of being will have been disrupted whether from relatively minor issues such as having to wear a face mask through to some quite dramatic changes in our pattern of interactions with others whether in social situations or within the work place. At the more extreme end of that disruption scale Covid will have brought not just change but very real distress with illness or the loss of loved ones.
As far as therapy is concerned there has also been disruption both to the spirit of counselling work as well as the practical arrangements. For example a key part of any counselling work is the provision of certainty. The therapist will commit to being present for the client. Reliability, trust, consistency together with secure boundaries are four important cornerstones of counselling work. At present those pillars are challenged by our inability as therapists to confirm even the most basic of arrangements. This includes ensuring that client and therapist are able to converse together on any chosen date.
For example, I am at present talking with clients via Skype. That is useful technology but I am very conscious that the session can suddenly be adversely affected by issues around connectivity with the abrupt loss of contact when a screen freezes. The hope is that we will be able to move from distanced meetings back to face to face work in early December. This will however remain as an aspiration until we know for certain that the lockdown has been lifted. Even then the threat of a sudden requirement to self-isolate because of a test and trace notification remains a constant disruptive possibility.
The issue of uncertainty and change does provide a link with some aspects of counselling work. We live in an anxious, uncertain world. Often therapy is about coming to terms with this uncomfortable reality. We are surrounded by potential unknowns and that can be stress inducing. Sometimes the most we can hope to achieve is a better understanding what is happening both within ourselves and also in the world around us. Equipped with that understanding we may then be in a position to make some informed choices.
Choice is an ever present issue within counselling work. This begins with the decision to embark on therapy through to deciding what to do next with that increased self-awareness or confidence emerging from the work. Existential counselling is a form of therapy which places particular importance on issues around choice. I have provided a further glance into existential work with a brief article which is available in the Counselling Directory – see link https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/memberarticles/clients-and-counselling-an-existential-approach
Perhaps one important challenge for all of us during this stage of the pandemic is about choosing just how to be with the myriad of frustrations thrown up by the disruptive lockdowns. Is it acceptable to openly express that frustration, anxiety and irritation? Conversely is there an expectation that we should portray a strong stoical way of being irrespective of our internal impatience. What approach will be most helpful at this time? How can that be reflected in our thoughts and actions?
Covid will continue to impact on our lives throughout the coming months. We may have little option but to accept that reality. We can however decide to do something about the way in which we allow Covid to influence our thoughts, feelings and actions.
If we really wish to do so we can work to take back a greater measure of control over our lives during this difficult time. We can decide how to think about the Covid situation and how to react as far as our thoughts and actions are concerned.
That is not an easy option to pursue. Nevertheless even with so many current constraints it feels important to remember that we still retain the freedom to choose which pathway to walk even as we move through the pandemic.