Making Therapy Useful When There's "Nothing New to Report"
With the stay-at-home order, closed down restaurants, remote work, and canceled gatherings and public outings, it might feel like your life is on pause. When it feels like there’s “nothing new to report,” it can be tempting to put a pause on therapy until “regular life” resumes.
However, therapy provides so much more than just a chance to break down the “problem of the week.” It’s a chance to hold yourself accountable, to maintain a long-term relationship, and to move through the process of change, which sometimes happens when you least expect it.
Although it can be tough to get in the groove of therapy when it’s happening over a computer screen, if you’re willing to stick it out, you may find that your work in therapy takes on new, deeper meanings during quarantine.
Here are some ways to get un-stuck in your virtual therapy sessions:
Identify themes. If you’re used to spending therapy reflecting on the events of the past week, dissecting and analyzing arguments with your coworkers, or practicing anxiety-management tools for an upcoming speaking gig, you may feel lost without any new developments on those topics.
Use the break in action to reflect on any larger patterns you’ve noticed in yourself. Do you typically complain about people who exhibit a certain personality trait? Do you typically avoid certain types of situations, and what might drive you to avoid them?
When you’re not in the middle of a crisis, it’s easier to step back and connect the dots between the events or experiences you tend to bring in sessions. Your therapist can help you identify these themes and gain insight about your patterns, insecurities, and preferences.
Embrace the unplanned session. Many of us naturally seek structure in our lives, and in our therapy sessions. If you’re used to going into your session with an “agenda” for exactly what you want to cover today, having an open-ended session with nothing planned can feel scary or uncomfortable.
However, those unstructured sessions are often some of the most meaningful ones, because you allow things to unfold organically. If you have nothing planned to talk about, you can allow your mind to jump to whatever it wants. Though it can feel vulnerable, if you trust your therapist enough to express out loud what comes up, they can help you make meaning out of whatever arises. You may be surprised by what you discover happening beneath the surface.
Revisit your goals. When there’s nothing new to process, it can be a great time regroup. You and your therapist can revisit the topics or symptoms that brought you to therapy in the first place, reflect on your progress, and discuss whether you’d like to continue exploring the things that initially brought you in, or whether there are new directions that feel more relevant now.
It’s also a useful time to explore existential feelings. The fact that we are going through a global pandemic might be ever-present in your mind, or it may be something you only think about when you watch the news or face reminders of it. Either way, we’re all affected by this event.
Your therapist can help you identify and express your feelings about this chapter in life, support you in grieving for cancelled plans, or simply help you articulate how your brain is making sense of the circumstances.
Confront avoidance. If you find yourself avoiding your feelings or trying to distract yourself from what’s going on, this is also helpful to bring up in therapy. You may find yourself wanting to cancel your session to save yourself the discomfort of having to confront difficult thoughts or feelings, but denying reality doesn’t change it.
If you’re struggling to feel connected to your therapist over telehealth, this is also important to bring up. Sometimes, it just takes a little troubleshooting to overcome the mental block that makes it harder to get in the zone over video. Your therapist can help you find ways to set up your physical environment and position yourself comfortably to get the most out of virtual sessions.
In conclusion, be patient with yourself and stay the course.
It might take longer to “warm up” to the deeper topics in session over video than it does in your therapist’s office. If you find yourself struggling to let your guard down, perhaps you and your therapist can come up with an initial neutral topic or fun conversation to kick off the session, and ease your way in to the deeper stuff.
While it can be tricky to adjust to therapy sessions during quarantine, it can also be rewarding. You’ll have an easier time returning to in-person sessions if you’ve stayed in touch. Regular virtual sessions will also give you the chance to practice the tools and skills you’ve developed in your previous work, so that you can keep making progress towards therapeutic goals.
At the end of the day, remember that your therapist is invested in helping you live a fulfilling and satisfying life, and they can help you do that even when it seems like your life is paused.
If you’re looking for some support amidst this strange chapter of history, we’re here for you. Contact us to set up an initial appointment today.