By Jenna LeJeune, PhD
How do I get this mic to work? What angle will hide my bed in Zoom? Can someone make the dog stop barking? There’s been so much to figure out as many of us rapidly adjust to doing therapy remotely. No wonder so many of us are in constant problem-solving mode these days!
Here’s the thing though: When we approach therapy from a problem-solving stance, we run the risk of treating our clients like they are, well, problems to be solved. We can lose touch with the common humanity we share and with whom we want to be in those relationships. In other words, we can lose touch with our values. But just because you’re doing therapy remotely, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the powerful relational aspects that make therapy so rich and meaningful for many of us.
Here is a practice that only takes a couple of minutes that can help you reconnect with your values and what is most important to you in this work.
1. Close your eyes, letting go of any preparation or problem-solving you have been doing. Picture the client you are about to meet. See them where they might be right now, sitting in front of their computer waiting for your session to start.
2. Now imagine what they might be feeling or thinking as they are waiting for you. Consider that there is something this person is hoping for from their time with you; something that is important to them.
3. Next, take a moment to connect with the common humanity that you and this person share. You both have things that matter to you, ways you are struggling, and people you love and that love you. You might even picture someone else who cares for this client; maybe their spouse, their child, or their pet.
4. Finally, coming back to this moment, recognize that you have this one hour to be with this person; a person who feels and suffers and loves and is loved, just like you. Then ask yourself this question: Given this opportunity, how would I choose to be with this person over the next hour? This isn’t about what you want to accomplish, but instead it’s about who you want to be, your values. What qualities would you choose to embody in this one hour that you have with this person who is suffering?
Getting in touch with your values in this way can help bring more vitality and meaning into your sessions, even when they are done remotely.
Jenna LeJeune, PhD, is cofounder and president of Portland Psychotherapy Clinic, Research, and Training Center in Portland, OR. As a clinical psychologist, she is interested in helping people live lives of meaning and purpose even in the midst of suffering. In her clinical practice, Jenna specializes in working with clients struggling with relationship difficulties, including problems with intimacy and sexuality, trauma-related relationship challenges, and struggles people have in their relationship with their own bodies. She is also a peer-reviewed trainer in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and provides trainings for professionals around the world.