by Casie Hall, LCMHC, LCAS
December of 2020.
Here we are.
Anyone on my team, all of my clients, and most people who know me will tell you that I am a big fan of transparency. Transparency as an action and communication style is such a tangible, magical way of connecting with someone. It immediately creates relation, settles fear and apprehension, and levels two people into a space of feeling seen and being heard, making each feel valued. All of that said, full transparency for me right now looks like telling you that I have been staring at this computer screen for a solid hour, trying to figure out how the heck to write what’s on my heart. I am not usually one to struggle with finding words, and also, this year and all of its transformative challenges seem to transcend words; moving into a space made up mostly of nondescript sensations, wavelike feelings, and revolving images.
Right now, as I write, I can’t stop thinking about ironing boards!
Ironing boards and bathrooms.
Laundry rooms and car dashboards.
Closets of varying shapes and sizes, and dimly lit back porches.
Driveways and curbs.
Tire swings, bus stop benches, garages, parks, and stairwells.
Playrooms, bedrooms, bunk beds, and pantries.
Because those are the places.
Those are the places that became sacred spaces in 2020.
Sacred spaces where we held on tight to our human connection. To each other.
Those are the places we found ourselves;
I joined my first set of telehealth sessions in March from the front seat of my car, computer propped up on the hot, sticky dashboard. I saw 5 clients that day. One client logged in from a gray office cubicle, another from their empty bathtub (a wildly comfortable spot with a good pillow!), another from their unmade bed, one from inside their daughter’s closet & the other from a crocheted hammock in their backyard. Like many providers, I worried about how the shift to telehealth would impact treatment, particularly for folks working through significant trauma and utilizing evidence-based approaches that have almost always been implemented in an office setting. Truth is, we didn’t have a choice. COVID-19 and mandated quarantines meant that our options were to 1) pause or end treatment, or 2) adapt. So, as a team, providers and clients in support of one another, we adapted. We made the choice to keep showing up, by whatever means we could. ‘Rules’ bent, standards flexed, expectations shifted, and we all decided to try the best we could.
I slid out of my car after my five hours of session, stretched my legs, took a deep breath and wiped a few beads of sweat from my forehead. Outside of thinking that doing sessions in a hot car was unsustainable (ha!), I remember sensing a really amazing, unspoken understanding, compassion, and empathy. There was something that happened between myself and my clients that day… an experience of ‘humanizing’ that felt so different than previous sessions.
As therapists, we always strive to build authentic human connection and relationships with our clients. Afterall, the truest practice of therapy is two humans coming together for an hour a week(-ish) to work through life’s muck. Muck we all have in one form or another.
Despite an abrupt and forceful shift to telehealth, a global pandemic, mandatory quarantines, tremendous sociopolitical stress, the continued revealing of deep systemic racism and injustice, and an increase in divisive information being spread widely, the core of therapy in 2020 (and beyond) remains the same. The core of therapeutic work is still very much two humans, sharing space and time, working through muck; together. In the face of logistical barriers, increased stressors and mounting pressure that could have threatened the practice of therapy to that core, providers and clients doubled down on their commitment to one another. In many ways, we squared our shoulders to the new challenges and became more connected than we had ever been. Telehealth sessions have increased our ‘knowing.’ We know how each other’s homes are decorated, closets are organized, and what favorite snacks hang out in the pantry. We know what cars we drive, what parks we like to hang out in, what pets we have, whether our kids have bunk beds or a mattress on the floor. We know that ironing boards make fantastic desks and dogs barking at mail delivery mid-session can be a welcomed comedic relief in a hard moment. In the intimacy of our own spaces, we learned- and came to know- each other’s human.
Another full transparency moment; *deep breath* As a human, I join many others who feel like they are barely crawling across the 2020 finish line. C – r – a – w – l – i – n – g. Here’s the thing: no one ever said we had to gracefully jog or stretch our elegant gait into the New Year. Crawling will do just fine. Heck, roll. Let someone else pull you. Flop like a fish or do a crab walk. However you keep your body & soul moving forward; lean in! In your moments (many not so brief!) of struggle, isolation and fear, turn your head side-to-side so you can see your company.
You are NOT alone.
We are here.
The therapeutic community is here.
Providers are here; not only as trained professionals that are passionate about mental wellness, but as human beings that are struggling, worried, scared, experiencing frustrating symptoms of depression & anxiety, missing our families, struggling with patterns of addiction, battling insomnia, wondering if ‘normal’ will ever greet us again, right alongside you.
Never has the assertion “We are in this together.” rang more true.
So- as we enter into the New Year of 2021, let’s allow our togetherness to ring.
From closets, bathrooms, mountains, stairwells… From wherever we find ourselves. From our depth and our anger and our anguish.
From our desire to be seen and heard.
Our togetherness is loud and ever present.
Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and hear it.
With resounding gratitude,
“I reserve my greatest admiration for those who continue to struggle to embrace the whole impossible tangle of snakes that is our society; those who fight to identify and strengthen human connections, and defeat polarizing forces that strain to drive us apart.” – Shana Alexander