This morning I went back to face to face working. It wasn’t simply a “return” however. This resume involved a relocation. Rather than seeing clients at my home in Eastbourne, I am now working out of the Wilbury Clinic in Hove.
Today is my second day back at work; client work at least, this being the time of year to transition back into my teaching work too. Having had two months away from client work, I certainly had the sense both yesterday and today that getting up for work was “a thing”! Anticipatory sensations, excitement to reconnect with clients, with my trade; and yet intermingling with tinges of anxiety, a “hangover” from historical scripts of responsibility.
I’ve shared on numerous occasions how it is my intention to re-emerge into a “post” Covid world slowly. I have had a few false starts! My decision to re-enter the physical presence of another being was not an easy one; and yet by this spring I felt a whole body yearning to do so: to apply my approach to therapy more fully, more whole heartedly, more whole bodily.
I have never been in the camp that views online therapy as the poorer cousin. Indeed, the client I saw this morning shared her experience with me in the room today in the context of the work we had been doing since March 2020. “I’m not sure we would have done the work we did if we hadn’t been online”. I tend to agree. Online therapy just brings out different facets of our being. It is neither better nor worse, just different*. So what was I yearning for? I’m still curious about that. A clue being given to me is the current energy and passion toward “deepening the phenomenological” and the importance of “experiencing” in therapeutic change. I am finding myself underlining this with the trainees I teach (a kind of antidote to the heady heights existentialism can take us to), but it is also an idea I am incubating for Book #2!
And what of Book #1…
…interestingly, as I sat in my new practice space this morning, waiting for my client to arrive I made a final check of email. I do so just in case a client is needing to get in touch. I always approach this choice with caution (there is a tale I share with trainees, how I once took a phone call from my accountant 10 minutes before starting with a client telling me of a tax bill I was not expecting. Lessons were learnt). Today, an email from the commissioning editor of the publishers I am in dialogue with – reviews are in! A choice point, do I open the word document? You can imagine. First day back in the real world saddle, and this type of news. I smiled. What would my book say?
Be with it, “as it is”
I closed my email, put my phone down, adjusted my posture in the chair. My book – an integration of being a Buddhist, educator, therapist – details some of the journey I have taken to work with, not against, my patterning. “Checking” is one of those traits. Checking (with an external source) that I am okay. More often now, I can check-in, with-in. I can find my seat my settling back into the saddle. I am already okay, news no news, book published not published. The experience carried a sense of pointing to what all my work (practice, writing, teaching) is about. As I share in the book, any sense of anxiety in “not knowing” is simply a messenger. My particular patterning of karma. A chance to “wake up” on the spot. It all felt rather synchronous and oddly reassuring.
The experience also felt like the the ideal ground upon which to re-meet my client. They arrived, we sat. In some ways, nothing had changed since March 2020 our last time in the same space. And yet it had changed entirely compared to September 2015 when we started our work together. They shared “it’s as if I needed the break in physical meeting in order to feel how much I have changed”.
And me too. Having spent most of the writing time on my book in a more introverted life, coming back out I can feel how much I have changed in my practice. At ease EVEN in the emotional field moving (whether book thoughts or tax news). My Buddhist practice is currently helping me traverse this territory. The deeper I go into the Vajrayana, the more there is contact with a basic okayness, less reliance on the external world to bring comfort about myself; a shift in allegiance I have described previously from the contents of experience toward the “I” that is experiencing.
At the weekend, I was working with the new entry students on our Humanistic counselling course. Tasked with presenting ideas on existentialism and phenomenology, one student commented that it’s difficult to not make assumptions about a simple object like “a water bottle….how on earth will we understand a human being!” I offered that actually, maybe there is nothing more simple than two human beings sitting opposite one another. “What’s the difference between a water bottle and a person?” I asked. A student replied “a person can describe their experience, we don’t have to”. Spot on. Once we drop our assumptions, get out of the way, the only job we (therapists) have is to facilitate the clients coming to know.
Maybe that’s why I wasn’t nervous this morning. I, as all humanistic therapists, trust the capacity of the client to know. I just spot and feedback where they appear to block themselves. “Change” in humanistic psychotherapy is about coming to know, NOT about doing anything different.
“Just” doesn’t mean “easy”; that is the practice of human being.
It’s good to be back.
*And why I am also continuing with a hybrid private practice online and face to face.