A Zoom experience

by Jan Hawkins
Published on 01 March 2021

Prior to the first lockdown, I had a long history of technophobia. Despite this, I had managed to see a few people regularly on Skype, as they live so far away. The thought of transferring all my work onto Zoom filled me with dread. I am just jotting here a few thoughts in case they resonate with any of you.

Initially I had mixed feelings – the experiences of those people I had always worked with on Skype meant I wasn’t completely averse, however, 90% of my therapy and supervision work, as well as my other working endeavours, had always been face to face.

The first lockdown came just before my summer series of study days and I was in two minds whether to just cancel them all, until an organisation who had booked me to deliver my Winnie the Pooh and Inner Landscape day for 30 people, called me and asked if I would deliver it via Zoom. I took up the challenge, with considerable anxiety about the tech. The day before my first training delivery on Zoom, I spent four hours (not on content for the day, that was all prepped) writing out my crib sheets of which key to press and when, how to get people in and out of breakout rooms, and how to deliver instructions to those who, like me, had never used Zoom before.

Reflecting back on almost a year of Zoom working, I have been surprised at the level of relational depth in my therapeutic work, even with people I have never met before. This particularly true of those for whom their early trauma has meant periods of dissociation during sessions. It has seemed, on some occasions, even more possible to connect at depth during those periods in a session when there is a very young child (dissociated part) present. I have pondered whether this has been because we are much closer face to face than in the therapy room when on zoom. Also, the client is in their own surroundings which, for some, has been very important in making the transition safely from those very young selves into their adult self without having to travel back home.

Groupwork too has continued to feel intimate, and I have been very surprised about this –
I love the intimacy of the small groups I work with here at home, the continued processing over lunch round the table together, the opportunity for those present to network among each other in breaks. Though there is little of this on zoom – I do open the room before the start of morning and afternoon sessions for anyone who does want to have a little connection before we start. As ever, the experiential aspect of all my training endeavours remains key and learning how to put people in and out of breakout rooms, so they can work with the material, and process, has been important.

I suspect, when freedom comes, some people may want to continue online, and hope others will want the face-to-face three-dimensional option. The most important relearning for me is that relational depth is about how we connect as people, listening with the whole of our being, and that can happen in person, online or on the phone. I wonder what others have experienced during this enforced way of working?

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