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

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

It seems that it is acceptable to indicated that one is “Feeling grateful” and that one can “embrace the moment in gratitude.” We certainly did not wish for the virus to enter our lives, but in doing so, COVID-19 has been something of a teacher. As noted in our companion essay (Bergquist, 2021), the virus has encouraged our learning something new about domestic life, about interpersonal relationships, about the use of technology, about governmental functioning – and most importantly about life purpose and priorities. It is to these themes that we now turn in offering the personal insights provided by those completing the survey.

Technology and Shattered Boundaries

As we noted in commenting on the Survey Monkey results, technology played a big role for many of our respondents in the ways they adjusted to the demands of COVID-19. Many of the shifts in perspectives and practices regarding technology were reflected in the written comments. First and most fundamental is the change in communication patterns: “Most communication went online.” Of equal importance is the role played by technology in the movement of work from an office to one’s own home. This shift was almost universal among our respondents. Furthermore, an important lesson was being offered by the virus: work can be done at home! One of our respondents put it directly: “Remote work is effective.”

Technology was critical in making the transition from person-to-person to remote. It was not only critical. It was also directly and indirectly transformative. The indirect transformation concerned what it meant to be working from home. One of our respondents reflected the view of many colleagues. The most important change for this respondent regarding COVID-19 was this “shift to the work-from-home way of doing things.” What did it mean to do work in the company of family members and often have to shift between work and domestic obligations? What did it mean to have more time for both family and work (given the absence of a commute), but also less time for sustained attention to either work or family? The boundaries between work and home were shattered—how was this stressful (perhaps even traumatizing) shift to be handled.

The more direct impact of technology concerned the often-surprising way in which those receiving psychological services receiving the shift to remote interactions with the person providing assistance.  One respondent observed: “Teletherapy can be as effective as in-person therapy with some patients. More patients than I expected are just as happy to use teletherapy going forward.” Another indicated that: “teletherapy can be as effective as in-person therapy with some patients.” A third somewhat surprising lesson was learned for at least one respondent: “Technology has afforded more efficiency at times.” These comments were offered by those doing clinical work—which made it that much more surprising given that psychotherapy is usually conceived as a very intimate process.

Of equally great surprise were the less positive appraisals offered by those doing organizational consultation (which is usually conceived as a less intimate process.) For instance, one respondent, offered this nuanced appraisal: “Technology has afforded more efficiency at times, but organizational discussions with the business leaders I work with is still best in person.”

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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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