Sheltering-in-Place (aka the Great Pause of 2020) has shaken life, and many of us to our cores. Stripping away excess and turning inward is part of the package right now and with that big questions are bound to arise.
I'm not talking about the kind of questions that we may have previously grappled with like 'where should I travel this year?' or 'what if I don't meet that deadline? ' - although those questions may still be looming. I'm referring to the big questions that philosophers, writers, artists and, well, many psychotherapists have long since mused about.
While these periods often give way to important personal growth spurts and sometimes greater paradigm shifts, they are often downright uncomfortable and at times overwhelming. Questioning who you are and the world around you can be anxiety producing (read: racing thoughts, difficulty sleeping, excessive worry), which is why many people avoid asking those big questions to begin with.
For those of you wondering how to support your Great Reckoning or at least make it feel more manageable, here are three simple steps to get you started:
#1. Lean In - First and foremost, be gentle with yourself as you acknowledge the process and create space for it. Honoring our experience helps ease resistance to the uncomfortable feelings that may arise. Upping self-care, whatever that means for you, is also essential.
#2. Journal, Journal, Journal - Writing is a great way to externalize what you're thinking and decrease racing thoughts. It also helps in gaining new insights by helping us make sense of our experiences, thoughts and feelings. A visual journal is another option, which focuses more on imagery than words.
#3. Talk it Out - Find a trusted friend, family member or community leader to talk through your questions, but also know there may not be an immediate answer. Just as important to note is that if you are finding this process to be overwhelming or increasingly distressing, as it can be, please reach out to a psychotherapist to help guide you through your process. That's what we're here for!
As I finish up this post, I am reminded of a quote by poet Rainer Maria Rilke. I was first introduced to these words in graduate school as I was beginning my journey as a therapist, and they feel particularly relevant to our collective experience now. The quote goes like this:
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything."
On that note, please know I am here to support as we are all living the questions day by day in this historic time.
Till next time, wishing you peace & ease,
Let's be real, women and girls are shouldering the weight of pandemic-life in a BIG way right now. It's exhausting and for many ... dangerous.
Last week, the New York Times reported that one in three jobs held by women has been designated as essential, putting them on the front lines often underpaid and undervalued. It's no surprise the data also shows that women of color are more likely than anyone else to fill those essential job roles.
Meanwhile, a few steps back from the frontline the challenges that existed for women and girls pre-pandemic continue, but with a COVID twist.
Here's what I mean:
And these are just a few examples.
Is it any wonder anxiety, stress and trauma symptoms are on the rise? No, not really. It seems a normal response to an unhealthy situation.
Hyper vigilance or feeling like you've always got to watch your back, makes sense. As does numbing out, tearfulness and racing thoughts. These are all symptoms of anxiety, stress and trauma -- though often people don't recognize them as such.
So then how do we tend to the psychological wounds of women and girls in such an unprecedented time? Well, from my perspective we need a therapeutic approach that holds the nuanced experiences of women and girls and also recognizes that one's emotional health hinges not only on a strong sense of self and nourishing relationships, but on a society where we all feel safe and respected.
Enter: Feminist Therapy (again).
Feminist Therapy emerged in the 1960s and was radically different from earlier therapeutic approaches, which positioned the therapist as expert and/or omitted the social and cultural context of a client's experience. These frameworks were also very much rooted in euro-centric, patriarchal values, and as a result women were underserved and often pathologized - 'Female Hysteria', anyone?
In contrast, Feminist Therapy emerged as a strengths-based approach. It viewed the political as personal, and valued diversity of experience. Feminist Therapy also held the therapeutic relationship as a partnership of equals.
I will say while Feminist Therapy was a significant improvement from previous therapeutic approaches, it was not without its problems. Just like the earliest waves of the feminist movement, Feminist Therapy tended to the needs of white middle/upper class women, largely ignorant to the challenges of poor women, LGBTQ IA+ women, women of color and many others.
While the approach has evolved since its inception, attempting to address intersections of identity and cultural humility more directly, I want to be clear that the field continues to grow and change.
I'm not speaking for all feminist therapists here or the field at large. Instead I'm sharing some values and principles that I incorporate into my own Feminist Therapy practice, which focuses specifically on the support of self-identified women and girls.
I share my approach here because as I've written many times before I believe Feminist Therapy is revolutionary, just as I believe healing is our birthright.
These are trying times indeed, and women and girls deserve support tailored just to them. Too often folks shy away from therapy because they fear their experiences won't be fully honored. It feels safer to push through on their own, despite the pain it may cause, not realizing there is a therapeutic frame that is inline with their own values and experiences.
If you're interested in knowing more about Feminist Therapy, the work I do, or are in need of support during this trying time, don't hesitate to reach out. Please know you are not alone in this.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
I'll be honest, I've always been slow to try new things. Whether it's new technology or a new fashion trend, I typically take note, wait in the wings and observe for a good amount of time before deciding to give something a try. And that was where I stood with incorporating video therapy (aka teletherapy or online therapy) into my practice.
Flash forward to March 2020 and pandemic life forced my hand. Overnight, just like so many healthcare providers, I was no longer able to see clients face-to-face and had to move quickly to secure an online platform so we could, well, therapy-in-place. I'm happy to share that overall it's been a smooth transition.
If you've never tried it, you're probably wondering what video therapy looks like in practice. And just like in-person therapy, it varies from therapist to therapist and client to client. On my end, I bring the same warmth, authenticity and creativity that I always did and my clients continue to bring their concerns, vulnerabilities and wins ... but from the comfort of their homes.
When clients reach out to schedule their first session, I provide them with tips on how to make the most of their therapy time including:
Then, each week, my clients receive a session reminder with a private link for their session via email or text. They click the link and it brings them to a secure and HIPAA compliant "room" ... I'm there waiting for them just as I would be in my office.
Now a month in to this new adventure, I'm realizing just how many advantages video therapy has including accessibility and comfort for clients who are able to receive support while cozied up from their homes. And because of this, I've even decided to continue offering video therapy as an option after the shelter-in-place order is eased.
If you've wanted to reach out for support during COVID and have been hesitant because of the video platform, I want to encourage you to contact me to ask questions or schedule an appointment. I'll share that just as I began providing video therapy for clients, I also began working with my own new therapist online. While I was hesitant because it was new and different, I am so glad I did. The support has been invaluable during this very surreal time.
Till next time, wishing you all health & ease,
As we continue to shelter-in-place here in the Bay Area, it's common to feel like the veil between work and home; day and night; day to day is wearing thin. Are we in week four of being housebound? I think I've lost track myself.
The lack of delineation can feel disorienting and add to already high levels of stress and anxiety, so adding ritual to your day can be a big help. As an expressive arts therapist, creating ritual is one of the tools I most enjoy sharing with clients because it can be powerful, creative and ... fun. (Yes, it's true - therapy can be enjoyable!)
While the term often gets conflated with solemn religious traditions or Woo-Woo gatherings -- both of which can be hugely supportive, and of which I have often participated, btw -- ritual can really be any activity that is infused with intention and is meaningful to the person performing it. It's another approach to working with the symbolic, not unlike making art or using guided imagery in therapeutic work.
So, what might a ritual look like in this time of COVID-19? Well, you may feel inspired to create an elaborate ritual to demarcate the end of your work week with a meditation, prayer and saltwater bath or you may need something more simple -- maybe a morning ritual to practice gratitude and connect spiritually, whatever that means to you. Other folks use cleaning and organizing their space as part of a ritual, holding that our outer space reflects the state of our inner lives and vice versa. While other people set aside each day to use tarot cards and oracle decks to tap into their higher selves a/o higher power.
Here are a couple of prompts to consider when designing and implementing your own ritual:
1. Ask yourself how are you feeling and what do you need help with?
2. What is your intention for the ritual?
3. What symbols resonate? What materials do you need?
4. When will I set aside time to practice my ritual?
5. How did the ritual feel? Do I need to change anything?
Lastly, if you feel drawn to this practice but still aren't sure where to start, I would suggest doing some research on common ritual practices that may provide some inspiration. Information on the use of ritual for psycho-spiritual purposes abounds these days, but one book that has stood out is Light Magic for Dark Times: More than 100 Spells, Rituals and Practices for Coping in a Crisis by Lisa Marie Bastile.
I often work with clients on creating personalized ritual to support their psycho-spiritual health, so please know I am available to support you as well. I would love to hear from you!
Till next time, wishing you all health & ease,