Healthcare: Meet a Psychotherapist in Sammamish, WA

Interviewer: Eric Shiu; July 25, 2020

Interviewee's name has been removed for privacy.

Psychotherapists assist clients with emotional and mental problems (UW Medicine).

Could you tell us about yourself and your profession as well as how your occupation impacts our community?

Sure. I am a Psychotherapist, a person who helps with emotional and mental problems that a client has. My work mostly focuses around children, however, I also help with couples in marriage issues, and cases related to depression. To my community, I feel that my occupation helps upkeep the positive atmosphere and maintain the stress levels of others so they can enjoy life as well. Though my work is more within our micro-society, I see my occupation as having a rippling effect—effecting our macro society as well.

“Small changes can lead to a larger impact.”

How has COVID-19 affected the functioning of your job? What worries you most regarding the effect COVID-19 has/will have on your occupation?

First off my job has changed into virtual appointments instead of in-person, which has impaired—limited—my ability to form trust relationships with my clients. Mostly, to me, it’s because a computer screen naturally creates a barrier between myself and my client since there are some elements that a virtual call can’t replace. There is a problem with the loss of a therapeutic, sanctuary, presence that normally my clients would feel when entering my office for an in-person appointment. Normally this presence can set the stage for better therapeutic results, since my clients may feel more willing to be open and connect with me.

I also had difficulties in feeling like I was at work because of the new “work from home” method I had to adopt, which affected my overall continuous work as the day progressed. Also with working from home, I was constantly staring at a screen which caused me to burn out faster than working in person.

Another issue would be that telehealth (a term for virtual health appointments) has restricted my ways of facilitating some small actions with my younger clients, so if I was to ask a small child to draw something I couldn’t observe the child’s actions, artwork as well as an in-person meeting.

Though COVID has negatively impacted my abilities to diagnose my clients and strained some therapeutic results, there have been some positive effects COVID has brought. There isn’t any commute for my clients and they can feel comforted by staying in there own house, which at times helps my clients become more open with me and also I could learn a bit about my client’s daily life. As an example, I had a client whose pet came in the door, and instead of telling my client to remove the pet, I had my client talk about her for a bit, which created a sense of comfort and —at times—helped my client develop a sense of trust and safety within our call.

Another benefit from the pandemic would be that a lot of people can obtain better insurance packages, which is better for my clients financially and encourages others to seek therapy if they require it.

Since you have mentioned COVID causing problems with your ability to connect with your client, what are some things you have done to overcome these challenges and difficulties?

Adopting new methods of gaining trust from my clients like having them speak about their average day and bring in their aspects of life. The example of one of my clients talking about their pet was one of the methods I adopted from working at home. I also figured out that looking at the camera at times could eliminate my feelings of burn out when working on the computer for long durations. For the most part, it was more of working to make this situation become more of a norm within my work habits and thoughts.

I know that because of quarantine and removal of large gatherings people have begun to start feeling more isolated than usual, what advice would you give for people coping with loneliness and how others can help.

Well, what I would advise is to first figure out where the feeling of loneliness and isolation is coming from and then digging into the person’s inventory of tools to start mapping out a solution. Since isolation comes from the constraints of socializing with others and feeling distant from society, what we can do is to try and pull them back. I would suggest video calling, texting, and just regular meetings would work decently well and can shed some light to people feeling distant from society.

"Since isolation comes from the constraints of socializing with others and feeling distant from society, what we can do is to try and pull them back. I would suggest video calling, texting, and just regular meetings would work decently well and can shed some light to people feeling distant from society."

(The person being interviewed also implied that these actions be done under COVID rules and standards for social interactions to make sure we are not spreading COVID around)

I have seen an increase in cases—initiated by loneliness and isolation—where the client felt that the situation was unchangeable and dire, which I would, in turn, help guide them to feel that there is still light within this dark event within their life.

What do you believe others can do to help ease problems encountered by your organization?

The only thing I can currently think of to help my job would be for my clients to be aware of the time. Weirdly enough most people will go overtime on my virtual appointments a lot more, which tends to eat up the next person’s session time. If they can remember to end their thoughts and be willing to have me leave on time I would greatly appreciate that.

What is the greatest lesson we can learn from this outbreak?

Expect the unexpected! We don’t know when something will change suddenly within our life; however, we can hone our skills of flexibility and adaptability towards these events. With these unprecedented times, we were forced to learn how to adapt with the situation and get the most out of it.

Are there any other comments you would like to share?

I am optimistic about a shift in our current COVID-19 situation, and I believe that we can help lift others from isolation and depressions by connecting with others. Even just texting a person who you might not know could potentially change their mood into a more positive outlook at times. I hope that everyone would unite together and help pull these people back into society to help make this community become a positive environment.