New Beginnings Therapy
Dr. Madalina A. I. Day
The following events, situations are imaginary for the purpose of illustrating a reflective practice exercise for 1. a potential change in work patterns during lockdown experience and 2. to enable development of a specific therapeutic relationship.
I am certain that some aspects are relatable.
Reflective practice when change is possible: “Was that your cat or my cat? “
"My son opens the garden door and enters the living room with a bleak expression. He puts down his skateboard and in a fervent manner - yet somehow completely unconvincing - exclaims: “after this relationship, I will not have another girlfriend!”
I’m not surprised; I stay composed and ask, gently and emphatically: “OK, would you like to tell me about it? Talk about it?” Already redundant questions, but nevertheless inviting and welcoming a discussion – because almost certainly that is exactly what we are doing, having a conversation about it. My son is going to be sixteen in couple of months and he is in a relationship – his first relationship – clearly negotiating and discovering an emotional road map. His latest announcement, albeit not surprising, followed last three months considerations on how he is finding himself, his steps in his first relationship. His conversations with me usually start with: “I need to talk to you about something”. Or: “I need to talk to you about X”. It’s fair to say that is not on a daily basis and majority of conversations are about positive events and occurrences. However, all of those are part of an emotional picture, and it is not difficult to understand how that develops at this stage: it starts with a theoretical application and advances with specifics of his experience and knowledge. Remembering my first relationship is not necessarily helpful, clearly my son is not asking for my past experiences/memories, and most certainly it would be unnerving, possibly frustrating, to him to introduce them in our discussion. It would most probably be interpreted as changing the subject. And that is fair enough. I don’t recall lengthy dialogues with my mother about her first love. (Or do I?). We have an absolutely clear, natural and mutual understanding that his questions are to his mum and not mum the therapist.
My son’s latest opening statement for initiating a question about his relationship or expressing his feelings as to how difficult it feels at times, was a self-assertion; a realisation of how prominently challenging his interactions had become during lockdown, when his relationship with his girlfriend was restricted to phone and texts. It was assuring to see that he is showing great maturity and growth, our conversations allowing for a space for him to recognise and gain confidence in his feelings and his experiences .It was clear to me that I needed to mostly listen to him and refrain from giving any advice, rather respond to direct questions best I could. I did find myself feeling increasingly grateful to have been able to work from home the last few months, as it meant spending more time together at home with him, even if sporadically. It also gave me a chance to readjust a work-life balance, in recognising changes that felt almost impossible in the earlier format of my work schedule. It also reinforced potential changes that could be made in my pattern of work and why that may be necessary to continue. My son and I talked about last years’ holidays and how we will revisit some locations from two even three years ago. Spending quality family time together and the lockdown did not fade our agreed understanding on what it means to us both being at home away from home. To us, free movement and spending time with family means being at home away from home. Being away from home and exploring the outdoors is also of essence to our life together and representative of it. It is believed that single parenthood makes such important moments a pillar to parent – child relationship, and it is personally special when accounting the incredible world-changing events of the past few months.
My son’s contemplation of his future is becoming richer and richer in both detail and explorations, and that matters.
I do have worries and that is just normal. I worry about our cat, too. Recently she has been constantly requesting food, and it feels to me that she has developed short-term memory problems or separation anxiety. Her meal times are increasing in number; spending time with our family dog has been another highlight of my remote working and the lockdown. Taking him for walks in the park was clearly a different experience for the two of us—both simultaneous and separate. I could not possibly convey to him how extraordinary the situation was, except to say: ‘We are both so fortunate to be able to go out for exercise and keep distance from others,’ his two-metre leash making that possible. I’ve stayed close to family and friends as always, carrying on family webchats, communicating and sending packages and messages of good health, and celebrating birthdays, anniversaries as much as before; some from a sense of accentuated distance and some feeling closer than ever.
There is still surprising time to read the news, find time for scholarly articles, write and dedicate time to different forms of interaction with clients, too—an already known fact that future work life is going to be more flexible in terms of technology and advances in technology. How is that going to affect me? I have a strong sense that it’s already known; both because of the past year’s events and a service evaluation conducted in January-February 2020 when business acumen was focussed on understanding what my work was excelling at and what aspects of it were underdeveloped.
Both March 2020 and April 2020 had been crucial months for work, intense, with work patterns changing and facing different challenges.
Much of my work could continue without severing existing relationships or shattering previous therapeutic accomplishments, merely by appreciating a situation faced by the whole world. There are implications from the past months: is it possible to create a greener, fairer and accessible way of working in the next term, next year, the years to come? Without a doubt, yes, it is possible.
“Was that your cat or my cat? Ah, you have a dog, too!” New content for discussions came up during sessions. As much as I tried to create a perfect work environment at home, spontaneity of a cat who decides to be noisy cannot be controlled. And yet I do question how important it is to have an office space away from home as it must be said that some such interferences were welcomed and some, not so much.
It is perhaps with nostalgia that I recall ten minutes break between clients’ sessions, that in majority of times being in fact a walk to the waiting room to welcome next client and a gentle close of the office door by one other client. Again, simple things."
Reflective practice illustration for work pattern changes