Jeff Guenther on Oct 02, 2021
A year and a half into this pandemic, all my clients feel like shit and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve never felt like such an inept therapist.
Honestly, fuck this pandemic. It’s been grueling. It feels like the bad things that have been happening the past 18 months have had a huge and lasting impact on us, while the good things just don't really hold up. Lovely, positive things do still occur, but they don’t have the lasting effect they used to have. There is so much death, anger and sickness that can instantly drown out anything good.
It's not uncommon for my clients to feel like they’re one setback away from, yet again, a complete and total meltdown. It seems like everyone is hanging on by a thread these days. The personal meltdowns that have happened the past year and a half have been adding up lately. Everyone seems zapped.
One of the reasons things feel extra hard seems to be due to the fact that many of us are trying our very best to stay safe. We’ve all gotten the vaccine, follow strict safety measures, wear masks, isolate when necessary and do our best to educate our friends and family. But there are so many other people in this country that are living their lives without a care in the world and don't believe that COVID is dangerous. The folks that are being extra safe and careful are carrying the burden while others don't feel the weight of being responsible.
Basically, the efforts of people being careful are washed away by people who are being careless. That’s making my clients feel angry, helpless and powerless. It’s exhausting and leaves them depleted. As their therapist, it feels like I have had a front row seat to witnessing my clients’ downfall into despair and depression. No matter how amazing of a therapist I am (and trust me, I’m amazing 😉), it feels like I can’t beat back the onslaught of pure shittiness that is our world.
And oh my gaaaaaaawd, don’t get me started on when we’ll be "getting back to normal." Remember that bullshit?! That gave me and my clients so much hope. And for a little while there, I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Masks were coming off, shops were opening back up and clients were flirting with seeing me in person again. Have I told you how much I fucking hate Zoom therapy? And then all of sudden we came crashing back down to reality. Honestly, I think it would have been better for our collective mental health if we weren't teased with the possibility of things “getting back to normal.” The initial relief and the resulting crash sent so many people into complete despair.
The goal posts for returning back to normal keep getting moved further and further away, which feels like a form of mental and emotional torture. Personally, I don’t think there is any “going back to normal” anymore. And if you let that sink in, it’s quite depressing.
Recently, there has been some amazing scientific news that we’re at the peak of Delta and come March 2022, only a tiny percentage of folks will be getting sick and an even smaller percentage will be dying from COVID. Apparently, future COVID mutations won’t be anywhere as fierce as Delta. Everyone I know is being very cautious about getting hopeful. There is so much time between now and March 2022 that it seems like you’ll only be setting yourself up for a total letdown if you believe the good news.
On a larger scale, it seems like we've all been traumatized and we aren't really acknowledging the mental toll it's taken on us personally and societally. Add in the likelihood that a lot of our social support systems have completely vanished, friends have fallen off, families have been torn apart, and regular support we used to get from our work friends is non-existent now. Of course, this only makes things harder and lonelier.
We’ve all been inundated with bad news and horrible stories around the world over and over again. Our mental and emotional resilience is depleted. Not only that, but can we trust fellow humans anymore? Could we really trust them to start with? It just seems like now it’s crystal clear that humans are the absolute worst. Basically, all my clients have lost faith in humanity and as a therapist, it genuinely feels like there is nothing I can do about that. There is too much evidence everyday that humans are horrible.
As therapists, we have a very good understanding that our brains are not equipped to handle this type of prolonged crisis. We’re probably all shutting down because of it. I typically end up normalizing my clients’ shutdowns and devolvement into numbness. I feel helpless and powerless as their counselor.
I’m leaving out so many other things that have been affecting us all on a wide scale. There isn’t enough space in this blog to get into everything. I have all of the privileges a person can have in this life, so I can’t even begin to understand what it’s been like for folks that don’t have my privileges. I keep holding space for my clients and I do think I’m still providing good enough treatment. But there is only so much a therapist can do in a client’s life when it seems like the world is turning into complete shit.
I feel like this should end with some type of inspiring message to all therapists. I’ve got nothing for you this time. Just wanted to validate what so many of you are feeling these days.
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.