Answering all of your pressing therapy questions in the comfort of your own home.
Let’s be honest, life is incredibly tough and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it tougher on us. With unemployment at 6.7%, pandemic fatigue hitting a new high, and our loved ones becoming sick with the virus, 2020 is not all that we expected- and 2021 appears to be its evil twin. I thought that it was only necessary to interview Adam on questions regarding our current global pandemic. Although Adam disclaimed that there is no “one size fits all” solution to every one of my questions, he helped me to share his guidance on some of the most common questions we are all wrestling with over the course of the pandemic. I hope that this dialogue will be as helpful to you as it was to me when I sat down with Adam for this interview!
Adam, have you seen an increase of patients during COVID?
Yes. Speaking for myself and what my colleagues tell me about their practices, our client books have become very full. However, these sessions have had to be modified to adapt to our “new normal”. Primarily, therapy sessions right now are actually taking place on Zoom. From a therapist perspective, the more information you have of the person that you are working with the better, so video communication is generally preferred to telephone. For example, it helps a therapist to see physical signs, for example if a patient hasn’t showered in a long time, in order to derive meaning from the interaction. From a patient perspective, if a video call is better for the therapist, it will be better for the patient in terms of receiving guidance and attention. Phone sessions are also completely fine if video isn’t an option or isn’t tolerable to a client! Whatever both you and your therapist agree on and are comfortable with is always the right way to go.
What are the main topics on a lot of clients’ minds during the pandemic?
There are a few things that my clients are concerned about right now some of them being an increased sense of job insecurity, concerns about getting sick and even dying, and worries around the repercussions of losing a job or family member. Tangentially, people have been thinking about their pasts a lot and reexamining their current relationships, given that so many people have more time to reflect on these aspects in their life. Marital and relationship problems have arisen, since people have been living in such close quarters. Some of my clients in their time off, for example, have also even wanted to talk through instances of childhood abuse that have been suppressed. It’s amazing that, when we stop to reflect and process, so much can become unraveled that we don’t even know we are suppressing.
How would you consult people that have anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and are even afraid to leave the house?
For people who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD, the best treatment is a combination of medication and therapy. Medications are not by any means cure alls, but they can make all the difference for many folks. Exposure therapy is also a great treatment for OCD, however, the troubling part of exposure therapy in this case is that the effects of getting COVID-19 are very real. In other words, having an extreme fear of germs is quite adaptive right now, so we certainly wouldn’t go for a walk and touch railings. I think that the most important thing, overall, is for those suffering with extreme anxiety or OCD to recognize the issue that they are facing and being open to treatment of some sort.
How do you combat pandemic fatigue?
I recommend people can get outside if they can to take walks and be in the fresh air. If being social is something that you are struggling with, try to join a pod with others you trust, such as neighbors or close friends you can see on a more consistent basis. If that isn’t an option, make a point to check in regularly via Zoom or over the phone with friends and family. Zoom fatigue is definitely real, but it can make all the difference seeing those we love over just hearing them. I personally make it a point to make eye contact and say hello to those that I see out on my walks. It is easy to hide behind your mask, which is why engaging even in the smallest ways can make the most difference. The pandemic has also presented a great opportunity to try new things or do something that you have been putting off because you couldn’t find the time. Make learning a new skill a priority by setting aside some time in your calendar. Practice knitting, learn how to play the guitar, or speak a new language. Time is on your side.
What are some strategies for not seeing an end?
What helps me to have hope is doing a historical analysis. We have overcome pandemics before and we didn’t have a fraction of the resources or knowledge we do today. Vaccines are here to help lower the rate of infection and spread, but it’s going to take educating people on the vaccine to ensure its effectiveness. Help is on the way! We just have to have patience and hope for the future.
About Dr. Adam Brown
Follow Adam on Twitter @adamofbruce
Adam Brown, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, City University of New York and a psychotherapist in private practice. His research has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including “Children and Youth Services Review,” “The Journal of Interpersonal Violence,” and “Sexual Abuse,” and he is an invited presenter multiple times annually at clinical and scholarly conferences internationally. His research has been featured in Rueters, Yahoo!, and Fox news, and he has appeared as an invited expert for comment on events in a variety of media outlets, including for “The City” in New York City, and the “Shanghai Media Group” (SMG) in China.
Dr. Brown is an expert consultant for Park Dietz and Associates in Newport Beach, CA, and a consulting clinician at the Institute for Sexual Wellness in Weymouth, MA. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and his Master of Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work.
Stay tuned for next week when Adam answers more pressing questions on therapy, life, and navigating our world’s current challenges.
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