• Chloe Sparrow

May: Online Therapy

Updated: Jun 7


Taking time out in the Treehouse Art Studio

During last months blog I recalled a Stereophonic’s lyric, this month I’ve been channeling Alanis Morissette while singing “And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?” during an epic ‘Technical Error’ in which I managed to lose the entire May blog that I had prepared on my website about online therapy for fear and anxiety. In the original blog I had been musing about the pros and cons of moving my services online during lockdown, flagging up important considerations such as ‘technical issues’. I don’t mind admitting that I spent a frustratingly long time attempting to retrieve my work before finally accepting defeat and reviewing my ‘back up’ options for future blog writing. Lesson learnt. Communicating online might not be ideal for everyone, or it may feel like a new and challenging format for those who are more accustomed to face to face contact. With this in mind, and in consideration of all the reservations being raised by therapists and clients, I am reassured by the support offered by those who have been working online for many years. This timely advice, and sharing of lessons already learnt about how to ensure confidentiality and maintain privacy during online sessions, has been appreciated by myself and others alike. And my recent ‘hitch’ was a helpful reminder to not get complacent online. I’ve realised that the arts therapies are well placed to adapt to the current circumstances during lockdown. As a profession, many Art Psychotherapists are well versed in responding to uncertainty, whether undergoing a review of their services in the work place, learning how to adapt multifunctional spaces into private therapy settings, or indeed working with clients who suddenly find their circumstances changed. It is working with uncertainty, or with the unknown, that is familiar territory for myself and colleagues. It is in the face of so much uncertainty about the future that fear and anxiety can arise, and I’m not surprised by the current interest in the media with regards to the nation’s mental health. The experience of fear and anxiety is related to the survival instinct, and often an appropriate response to danger. However problems can occur when these feelings overwhelm us. While we are all trying to process the impact of COVID-19 on our daily living, we will inevitably process it individually. Our individual experience of lockdown is unique and our circumstances will vary wildly. Finding the right support when you need it is important. Please view the information at the end of the page if you need urgent support for your mental health.


The balcony bench at the Treehouse Art Studio

Personally during this time, I have never felt more connected to nature, watching wildlife flourish while pollution levels plummet during lockdown has been a pleasure and a great comfort. Yet, on the other hand, I am aware of the very real threat to our health and economy and the loss of life that is devastating families up and down the country. Fear and anxiety are understandable responses to such a crisis, but are nevertheless unsettling and unpleasant experiences. For many people, simple mindful or grounding practices, or meditation, can be extremely helpful to soften the impact of fear and anxiety. Such practices aim to create a little space between the self and the felt experience, allowing for an improved awareness of what is happening in the present moment. It can give us the space to allow for a new perspective and provide respite from the stress response or worried mind. When we are feeling less overwhelmed by difficult feelings, it is easier to look at what is happening more clearly and to learn from it, giving us greater insights into our inner world. By taking the time to notice and name what we are experiencing, we learn to identify what is happening. If we can acknowledge our difficult feelings rather than fighting or ignoring them, then we have more chance of accepting and ultimately shifting what is unhelpful. Being able to investigate what is happening allows us to gain insight into what is driving our concerns. If you would like more information on online Art Psychotherapy while the Treehouse Art Studio is temporarily closed for sessions, please get in touch using the contact details on my website. Alternatively, you can visit www.acto-org.uk for a register of therapists specialising in online therapy. You may also like to try this simple calming exercise: ▫️ Gently bring your attention to the present moment. Have a sense of your body in the space you occupy. Let yourself notice sensations, thoughts and feelings as they come and go, see if you can watch them from one moment to the next, letting them pass. Notice what if feels like to sit or stand, where you come into contact with other surfaces. ▫️Now simply focus on the breath. Bringing your attention to rest on the breath in a more focused - but gentle - manner. If you feel distracted, gently return your focus to the breath wherever you can feel it best, perhaps the belly, chest or nostrils. ▫️When you are ready, lift your focus from the breath back into the body, becoming aware of sensations in the body as a whole, expanding your awareness of yourself in the current time and space in which you find yourself. Then gently ease your concentration.


People and pets: a recent painting of a calm and comforting moment

————————————————————————————————————————————————— If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need emergency support please visit A&E or call 999. Or, if you already have a crisis line number to use in an emergency, then please use it. If you need urgent help, but it is not an emergency, then you can get advice from the NHS online 111 service, www.111.nhs.uk or call 111. You can also contact your GP and ask for an urgent GP appointment. Your GP can advise you about helpful treatments and also help you to access mental health services. For free confidential advice from trained volunteers about anything that is troubling you, you can contact the Samaritans by calling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org (expect an email response within 24 hours). Or, you can text "SHOUT" to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line. The mental health charity Mind also has information on ways to help yourself cope during a crisis. Including calming exercises for coping with the pandemic, please visit www.mind.org.uk for more information. —————————————————————————————————————————————————

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