One subject parked firmly in opposition is Kelly McGee, a 29-year-old living in Los Angeles, who, after four years of regular sessions, has cut back to seeing her therapist on a bi-weekly basis: “It began to feel like a scheduling conflict instead of something that’s being worked into my week,” she said. “It’s harder to be vulnerable when there’s this performative aspect of being on camera.” Julia Crockett, a 34-year-old movement specialist in New York, has also reduced her number of sessions. She was blunt about her distaste, but wary of quitting altogether without an alternative: “I hate it,” she said of her Zoom therapy. “But also, the world may be ending? So, I’m like…I guess I should still go.”
It isn’t just the discomfort of being on camera that people don’t like. Mina Naderpoor, a 26-year-old L.A. resident who has been in somatic and cognitive therapy for a decade, explained to me that as someone who deals with issues like body dysmorphia, sharing a physical space with her therapist is very important: “When you’re on Zoom, they can’t see your physiological responses to things. Like, if my hand shakes in response to something,” she said. “It’s hard to be validated virtually because they can’t see my physical being. I’m a floating head.” Not to mention the fact that not everyone has a space they can carve out for themselves. Naderpoor has roommates, and has had trouble finding an environment that feels private or safe once a week.
On the other side of the divide, I spoke to three people who have increased their “visits” since the pandemic began. For Maddie Weinstein, an actor and New York City resident, therapy is now free, thanks to a recently waived copay, so she has decided to double up on her sessions. And she’s enjoyed the access that FaceTime has given her: “[My therapist] will pick up in her kitchen and be like, ‘Hey, sorry, I needed a seltzer.’” This makes the exchange feel “less awkward and staid,” she said. Jenny Osman, who works for the city, managing food access for City Hall, said she “hated” virtual therapy at first, but has also recently increased her visits to twice a week. She, like me, has found that she’s made the most personal progress over the last seven months. However, she does worry that seeing her therapist virtually can sometimes lead to misunderstanding: “There are just more opportunities to feel hurt or confused by a comment or piece of feedback,” she said.
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