Today, instead of sitting with my therapist in person, I had my first session over the phone. I’d known for a while that it was likely we’d need to stop face to face sessions at some point, but I was anxious at the thought of it. I was worried that there would be long, embarrassing pauses, or we’d talk over each other, or I’d get embarrassed and introduce the cat.
But mostly, I was worried that it wouldn’t be… enough, that it would be a poor substitute for seeing her in person and that I would lose the momentum I’d built up in sessions. I’m used to my therapist’s physical presence when we meet, to her calmness and the sense of safety I have when I’m with her. Would this be replicated in a phone call? Could it be?
Twenty minutes prior to the call, I showered and changed out of my social distancing casuals and into something smarter and less comfortable. I have absolutely no idea why I did this. It’s not as if my counsellor has ever enforced a dress code!
Then I sat downstairs, obsessively checking my mobile every few seconds to make sure that the battery really was full, and I hadn’t just imagined it. When she didn’t call the absolute second that we’d arranged, I convinced myself I’d got it all wrong, was a complete loser, nothing would ever go right… then the phone rang. And I jumped.
And: well, the first few minutes were a bit weird. I paced up and down the room whilst we chatted lightly about the week and I tried (for some reason) to imagine where she was sitting. Then, I sat down on the sofa and talked…
And talked. And it was fine, better than fine in fact. I probably said more in that call than I do when I’m sitting in front of her and I surprised myself by telling her about something I’d been wanting to for a while, but hadn’t been able to find the words.
I’m pleased to report too, that her skills in person were replicated, seemingly effortlessly. She knew when to let me be silent and when to gently push. At one point astonishing me by asking what was making me cry when I swear I wasn’t making a sound but just had tears in my eyes.
We’re doing it again next week and the one after and the one after that and so on until this crisis has passed. After which, I will return to seeing her in person. Until then, though- phone appointments are meaningful and supportive and, well… enough.