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When We Meet Again… Re-embodying Therapy

What might the return to in-person therapy feel like following a prolonged period of working online? As she prepares herself and her clients for the transition, embodied movement psychotherapist sissy lykou finds guidance in memories of the earthquake training she experienced during her school days in Greece.

“I’m worried I will forget how it is to see you in person… that I will not know how to navigate my movement in the space to make sure we are both safe… that I will find your smell as something totally new… that we will be uncomfortable and might misunderstand each other…”

These have been my thoughts after each session with my clients recently, as we move towards returning to in-person sessions and all our senses have been attacked by Covid. In an attempt to maintain a relational approach in my work, I have started inviting and encouraging conversations around this. What fantasies and concerns are there from both sides and how is this affected by each client’s individual living situation?

I notice the numbness some of my clients who live on their own bring, and a sense of needing to prepare for this ‘reunion’. On the other hand, from my clients who live with other people there is the intensity in the need to be in another space and free to talk. And I am standing in the middle, trying to integrate both and contain the different concerns and needs, to imagine myself in relation to them in their very different positions.

What strikes me is the wobbly sense of imagination within myself and around me; as if all this uncertainty with the pandemic has crashed our fantasies, our anticipation for something that we really want to happen, to be in our lives.

So far, in my own preparation, I have concentrated on the deconstruction and recreation of the mind-body perspective of my therapy work. The spatial element has changed. Safety and what is comfortable for each person in the therapeutic relationship need to be reconsidered, renegotiated. As we continue to live in the era of Covid, there is also the layer of the loss of touch and the fear of the other person. How can these be brought into the field between my clients and myself in a relational, empathic and embodied way without creating a sense of wrongness of our situation?

Often, I find myself trying to anticipate what reactions my clients might have to coming back into my therapy room after the most recent lockdown and the more threatening wave of the virus. When I started seeing my clients again in person in the Autumn, we all found ourselves walking on eggshells with what felt safe (enough) and what felt comfortable too. This time, I experience myself as much more guarded and frazzled. I try to visualise the moment of that re-encounter with each individual client and the need to create my own sense of ‘groundedness’ in order to facilitate my client’s sense of ‘groundedness’ and presence.

How best to prepare for the return to in-person work? I don’t feel I can offer answers. But I would like to offer you an image from my childhood, which has been in my mind over the last couple of weeks and has helped me in my own anxiety of wanting to find a comfortable way forward…

In Greece, schools have to do earthquake exercises to prepare students for any potential incident. Our teachers are trained to give us instructions on how to cover ourselves. But mainly they focus on how to mindfully come out of our hide when the ground feels stable; no rush, no panic and mainly smooth, slow and very observing of the environment’s movements.

Maybe this pandemic and the lockdowns can allow clients and therapists to find ourselves and each other in the same after-shock place; maybe we can start this re-embodiment of therapy together, from scratch.

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sissy lykou

sissy lykou is a UKCP registered psychotherapist, embodied movement psychotherapist and supervisor. She trained as a dancer before injury intervened. A Scholar of the A. S. Onassis Foundation, she then retrained as a psychotherapist in Athens and London and now practices in London privately and in community psychotherapy projects for children under five years of age and their parents/carers. She is the director of studies of the MSc in Contemporary Person-Centred Psychotherapy at Metanoia Institute and also lectures on several university and professional training programmes in the UK and Europe.

sissy’s professional experience includes research posts in EU projects for the Universities of Heidelberg and Athens, editorial board membership of international journals, book and journal publications, steering group membership of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility, and community and outreach leadership of the therapy community Stillpoint Spaces London. www.lykoucounselling.co.uk

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