At the time of writing, I think we are in Week 13 of the Lockdown. Collectively we all got catapulted into the online world and have seen our lives dramatically altered.
Having survived the initial shock and loss, my clients and I have settled into a routine, network connections have stabilised and the familiar comments of “Can you hear me?,“ I can hear you but can’t see you”, and “ you’ve frozen, oh it’s OK you’re back” have reduced. I’m sure, at a later date, when we look back these conversations will be funny. But, in that moment when you’re trying to listen to a client’s story, it’s frustrating.
What’s emerged and got me thinking, is the role of animals in these sessions. Now that clients can no longer attend sessions in person when we meet virtually, I’ve been given access to client’s houses, sheds and cars, and increasingly I’ve noticed the roles animals play in our sessions.
I wonder if, like their human owners they’ve had to adjust to lockdown. Perhaps the novelty of having their owners around a lot more and speaking into a ‘box on the table’ has generated a new curiosity? I wonder how it all looks to them when suddenly in the middle of a session a wet nose appears in the camera as they eagerly attempt to join in our session.
My cats are barred from my practice room when I’m working face to face, although I know some clients are desperate for them to be present. Their wish I suspect is that the cats will settle on their laps for a cuddle, but the risk unfortunately is that they might get ignored altogether as cats, unlike dogs, can be aloof, moody individuals and won’t perform to command. Maybe I need to consider getting a therapy dog?
During the lockdown I noticed how the presenter Matt Baker, on leaving the One Show, delivered his departing speech with his dog on his lap, providing a distraction possibly or more likely than not a form of comfort as he struggled with his emotions.
I’ve also noticed how animals are responsive to distress. No surprise here as many of us that own pets will be aware of how they tune into their owners’ emotions. More often than not they will pick up a client’s distress and suddenly appear in the room to offer comfort.
As a therapist and a pet owner I’ve found the little intrusions that pets have been making into our lock down therapy sessions and meetings interesting, and I recognise they may be of value in more ways than one.
BACP Private Practice division
BACP Private Practice supports members who work in, or are about to embark upon, counselling or psychotherapy in private practice.
For counsellors and psychotherapists in private practice. The quarterly professional journal of BACP Private Practice division.
Private practice toolkit
Whether you're seeking support on managing your current practice, looking to develop your business, or thinking about starting out on your own, this toolkit aims to help you on your private practice journey.
Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.