What you are about to read is a deeply researched story on how therapy changed during the pandemic. You won't find this story anywhere else. Like everything else on this site, it is ad-free and 100% funded by readers.
For a profession that's meant to help people cope better with change, therapy thrives in sameness. To a client haunted by turmoil, the therapist promises constancy. Your world may turn upside down, but I guarantee you 50 minutes of solid ground. Come, drop anchor here. You can count on this space.
Same day, same time, every week. The same room with the same furniture, the same wallpaper, the same table cloth. The same opening and closing words ("What's on your mind?" and "We will have to stop here for now" are my therapist's faves). The same hot beverage and the same tissue box. You take this routine for granted, but it is a freaking marvel, like the pyramids or the leaning tower of Pisa.
Therapy is a dance. Nothing here is ordinary. Nothing just happens. It is a masterfully choreographed performance where every element must hold its shape, week after week, sometimes for years, so that your shy spontaneous emotions can find the courage and comfort to show themselves.
Poof. Gone in 18 months. Therapy circa 2021 is a wildling, popping up in strange spaces – basements, cars, parks, messaging apps – not the reliable good kid who sits in the exact same spot every class sporting the exact same, neat hair parting.
In the summer, therapy's stillness that I was fiercely protective of was assaulted by loud fans and ACs. Everyone has a therapy voice – the way they sound when they enter the room. Mine had to suddenly change its volume and timbre.
Now that winter has set in and the air is quiet, it must change all over again. I am worried I am too loud and my secrets will waft out of my makeshift office-cum-sanatorium. But I can't be too soft, because my headphones amplify every little ambient sound – every distant hammer blow by the society carpenter, every chortling child, every creaky door in my therapist's house – like a boombox. This dance isn't classy. I am looking for ballet, and I am getting slam dancing in the mosh pit in front of a death metal stage.