A Time to Collect and Reflect

Our clients have all passed through an unusual and unanticipated period. While we are thankful that this period has not been characterized by extensive mortality in Israel, this has not been the case for clients with families abroad. Often the need to keep things going during a crisis inhibits reflective activity. The time for reflection has come, and if it is missed, it will not return.

Now is the time to help our clients to collect experiences, both good and less good, from the Corona period. There are both personal experiences and family experiences. Now is a good time to encourage families to re-collect joint experiences and to reflect on them. From the point of view of differentiation, a crisis often creates a watershed in the level of differentiation. New activities and understandings challenge family members. If they can take their experiences and collect “I-positions” about how each family member uniquely experienced collective life during this time, we can help them to engage in “co-creations” of intersubjective communication and the level of differentiation will rise. On the other hand, if family members are discouraged from such “I-statements,” the family will regulate itself by way of “cutoff” – not talking about it, or “enmeshment,”- forcing everyone to pretend their experiences are the same. Either way, the crisis will have decreased the level of differentiation in the family.

It may be well to enlist some of the expressive techniques Joan Kristall elaborated in last week’s session of the Corona course (Click here for class) or (Click here for full course playlist) in order to collect experiences. One could encourage use of drawings – of good and less good moments – or perhaps dramatizations. Regrettable moments can be rehearsed as “Take One” and family members can attempt to rescript “Take Two” that would have been more beneficial. Or music could be utilized to express experiences, or dance etc. Families may need encouragement to exploit the current moment to recreate refashion and create new understandings of Corona experiences.

And it is a time to re-collect and reflect on our experiences with our clients. What aspects of the continued communications worked well, which worked less well? Were there misunderstandings? Were there unfulfilled needs? Often the therapeutic work is examined mutually only at times of impasse or termination. The dramatic shift in the setting of the treatment affords an opportunity for “co-creation” in this realm as well. Even if things have gone well, simply asking for a mutual reflection opens the door for this process. We may find some therapies enhanced by the mutual creation of the new remote settings, while others have been damaged and in need of repair.

It is a good time now to engage in this same process in supervision. This also involved a mutual creation of a remote supervisory setting. The mutuality of the supervisory experience can only be enhanced by such open communication.

And finally, there is the “institutional” realm of Corona times. It is a good time to reflect now on how staff and trainees experienced the way our Institute conducted itself. What were moments of uncertainty about leadership? Experiences of not being seen? What communications were missing? After all, neither I nor Deena nor Rivkah had training or guidance or past experience to direct our handling of these times. We made it up, together, a process that challenged our differentiation level as well. 

As I write this, it seems to me that another general staff meeting in another week or two would be called for to raise the level of our institutional differentiation (the topic of the last lesson in the first year course) as a response to Corona times. Stay tuned.