I’m writing this in another lockdown. Yes, it’s familiar ground now, and this time, at least we knew it was coming. In my view, it was badly needed. I’m also writing this in my new position as Joint Chair of BACP Private Practice, a role I now share with Rima Sidhpara, who will be writing the next ‘From the Chair’ column. This lockdown feels more intense than previous ones. Clients are all struggling – even the previously more upbeat ones, and as counsellors, it feels more important than ever to maintain our mental health as we try to support our clients.
My daughter and her boyfriend bought a very neglected house over a year ago, and the renovation of that little house has frankly been a life saver. It’s given us all something to focus on and an opportunity to learn new skills, thanks largely to the wisdom shared by tradespeople on YouTube. The house was in a pretty bad state and was advertised as being in need of modernisation. One of those houses that come up rarely and have to be snapped up the minute they arrive on the market.
The garden was a tangled jungle of brambles and rubbish, inhabited by a family of foxes, who sadly found themselves homeless as their den was disturbed and previous hunting grounds and hiding places were removed. In a way, the renovation of the house has been reflected in the pandemic. In our first lockdown, we were largely bolstered with hope that the pandemic wouldn’t take long to sort out. And now, a year later, COVID-19 has created many twists and turns and we’ve grown wiser to the true extent of the virus. Lockdown 3 feels bleaker, and it can feel like things are going backwards as hope of normality seems further away than ever.
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Before the house purchase, building surveys had revealed the extent of the required works, so we knew what we were facing, and naively thought, like so many house renovators, that the work wouldn’t take long to complete. However, into the renovation, what we first perceived as simple tasks took longer when, for example, lifted floorboards revealed rotten joists exposed to years of untreated leaks from the drain, meaning a whole floor had to be rebuilt. Realising the walls and ceilings in every room have to be replaced and replastered adds yet more time, creating moments when you walk into the house and your heart sinks at the enormity of the work ahead, as you stare at more rubble sacks and crunch across floors of cement and dust.
But then a room emerges with new walls and ceilings freshly plastered and the house starts to come back to life. The smell of damp decay is replaced with the smell of new wood, paint and cement. Thoughts of paint colours and furniture emerge as a building site starts to slowly transform into a home. And that’s what the pandemic feels like. We are facing a mess at the moment, but eventually it will pass, and we will rebuild – we just currently don’t know when, but the world will look different in countless different ways.
And life goes on, even in the bleakest of times. And for the BACP Private Practice Executive Committee, we have been working with BACP colleagues behind the scenes. We will be holding another conference this year, which we suspect will be online again unless COVID-19 completely disappears by September! This year, we wanted to focus on something a bit lighter, so the conference, titled ‘When words are not enough’, will explore the use of creativity in therapy. Our thanks again to Susan Utting-Simon (ex-Chair of the division) who will be joining Rima and me to source new presenters.
Our online toolkit is continually evolving and, thanks to the continuous work of Caz Binstead and various teams at BACP, we are trying to keep the content fresh and up to date. By the time this issue goes to press, the student conference, which Gary Owens, Martin Hogg, Caz Binstead and Ani de la Prida will be working on, creating workshops and discussions for counselling students, will have happened.
Collectively, we have been working with BACP to update our Social Media Guidance, which has felt necessary, particularly in light of recent incidents of racial abuse and trolling. It feels sad to me that we can’t as a community work together to healthily debate issues, particularly in these troubling times. But sadly, for some, it feels necessary to criticise or attack colleagues.
On a lighter note, some of the network groups have continued throughout the pandemic, creating a strong sense of community. It is likely that these meetings will remain online for the foreseeable future and until such point as COVID-19 abates. By the time you read this issue, we will have lighter evenings, the days will feel warmer, and we can start to venture out a bit, although I suspect social distancing will be with us for quite some time to come.