As a psychologist and hypnotist for over 35 years, one would think that I have seen it all. I wasn’t prepared for the profound changes that COVID-19 had thrust upon my practice. Throughout my career, I’d typically seen patients face to face, rarely doing sessions remotely. That all changed during the week of March 23rd, when I began working from home, and I began a journey filled with both frustration and joy.
The initial roadblocks were mostly technical. I would often lose my Internet connection with my patients and scramble to get them back on my computer screen. Images that would freeze, and understanding what my patients were saying was difficult. This does not bode well when people are opening up about personal issues.
Another challenge was having my daughter, son-in-law, and their 3-year-old twins staying with us. This was a joy, for the most part. However, I occasionally had to explain to my patients what the eruption of noise was in the background. They all seemed to understand and even enjoyed hearing the sounds of children playing outside my “office.” They were able to laugh, which felt very cathartic.
My patients have shown a tremendous amount of tolerance regarding technical issues and the noisy kids at my house. In return, I have been more understanding of their forgetting an appointment, as days and time seem to be less distinctive. As an upside, I have learned more about people by seeing them in their homes, rather than my office. Sessions have often included a pet, another family member, or a child showing me some of their favorite toys.
I was hesitant to utilize hypnosis during video sessions. Never having done it before, it seemed too difficult to connect with someone in the same way I could in my office. Knowing that hypnosis is a powerful tool that could benefit so many of my patients during this time, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and use it.
Hypnosis is a great technique that can reduce anxiety, fear, improve mood, and help people cope better with uncertainty. It helps replace old patterns of behavior with new and better ones. In this time of a pandemic, what better tool could I offer my patients? I just needed to get used to a different way of sharing these skills with them. What I discovered was that they were better at receiving them via video than I had ever imagined.
After working through my technical problems and overcoming my resistance to change, I have found that hypnosis can be easily adapted for telehealth. Many of my hypnotherapist colleagues have even come up with hypnotic suggestions, metaphors, and ideas to help our patients improve handwashing, increase social distancing, and minimize face touching.
COVID-19 has been incredibly destructive, taking away so many joys. However, it has also offered us some positive things. This pandemic and quarantine have forced many of us to break out of our usual patterns of behavior. I know that I have been changed personally and professionally. I am always encouraging my patients to break out of their comfort zones. I was forced to do that myself and now I am embracing the use of virtual therapy.