Field Notes: COVID-19 and the Provision of Psychological Services

Field Notes: COVID-19 and the Provision of Psychological Services

Summary and Implications

Given the limited sample from two of the four service groups being surveyed, it is imperative that we view all results as quite tentative and more of an impetus for future inquiry, then a source of conclusions or even firm hypotheses. Probably the one finding that is somewhat definitive is that anxiety associated with virus is to be found among clients being served by all client groups – though perhaps there are different sources of the anxiety.

Even the extent of anxiety might differ considerably. Diverse ways to ameliorate the anxiety are also likely to have been engaged by those providing psychological services. Apparently, increased anxiety was to be found everywhere—though not with all the clients being served by the organizational consultants or those doing psychological training and teaching. Increased anxiety seems to have been particularly prevalent in the group psychotherapy sessions as well as in the personal psychotherapy sessions. This appears also to be a major issue being addressed in training and teaching sessions by our survey respondents. Would these findings hold up with a larger sample of respondents? This is our first point of inquiry regarding service area.

What about other emotions experienced by the clients? Our respondents seem to differ to a fairly large extent regarding their perceptions of the fear expressed by their clients about becoming infected—or the dispersion of ratings might reflect the wide range of reactions of their clients regarding the threat of infection (replicating widely documented diversity of reactions among those living in many countries during the COVID era).

There were other concerns and challenges being faced in a somewhat different way by those completing our survey. Some of our personal therapy respondents identified the challenge of isolation and loneliness as being important for their clients. Some of our group therapy respondents were witnessing similar feelings of loneliness and isolation among their clients. Our small sample of consultants were less likely to witness these feelings. As one might anticipate, the challenge of depression is more frequently considered to be an issue for those doing therapy than for those working in organizational settings.

The other challenges are of a more existential or organizational nature. Our personal and group therapists tend to find confusion about and loss of life purpose to be important. What about loss of control and/or concerns about authority? We might expect this challenge to be found among those doing organizational consulting work. It was not found among the small sample of consultants completing the survey. A larger sample would provide us with more definitive results. Our second point of inquiry concerns the existence of this challenge among those doing work as psychological consultants.

In examining the positive side of the COVID-19 experience, we find that greater opportunity for growth among their clients seems to be witnessed among the nontherapy respondents—though most members of all four respondent populations suggested that they find at least some glimmerings of growth (if not abundant hope) among those people they serve. Our initial impression is that the organizational consultants are more optimistic about their clients’ search for hope, empowerment and vision than are the other three populations—or is it just that this is part of the consultants’ “business” to encourage hope, empowerment and the creation of a new vision among the clients they serve? Are the two therapist groups more in the “business” of assisting clients with their anxiety, fears and even potential depression than in assisting them with their dreams? A third point of inquiry focuses on these potential differences between therapist and consultants.

When considering the impact of COVID=19 on the psychological services being offered, it seems that group and individual psychotherapy thrived during the COVID-crisis, whereas the small sample of organizational consultants completing our survey took a major hit. This was to be expected given the impact of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and economic collapse on organizations throughout the world.


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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