By Jo King, Family Therapist

I have talked for many years to friend’s family but more importantly to the families, young people, children, and couples that I work with that no one can call themselves your therapist unless what we create together is therapeutic. When I found Systemic Psychotherapy, I found a connection to my own philosophy that enables me to practice in an authentic and collaborative way to find ways of creating new narratives that create change and lift the burdens of anxiety, shame, and turmoil.

I have always practiced in a way that uses lots of coloured felt tips lots of paper, sometimes getting people to move around change places, draw think explore. We often use the whole room, using buttons playdough, polystyrene bricks anything and everything that assists in us explore new meanings and insights into difficult problems and stories. So, to find myself locked in behind my screen for four whole months send me into complete panic! I must admit I moaned ‘how can I be useful when I can’t explore using visual image?’. ‘I need people in person’ I cried, ‘I need to see peoples body language I need to use all my senses to connect to the feeling in the room How Can I do anything therapeutic without these key ingredients?’

To my amazement my clients wanted to continue our work using the online system of zoom and then I found an influx of new families that wanted to deal with difficulties. People shared that for the first time in years lockdown had given them time to think and reflect, time to be brave enough to talk to each other. Many families began to tell me that they felt zoom would help them as they lived too far away to travel but that it felt safer to talk online. Young people shared with me that lockdown had helped them to see that they had pretending to be ok for years when they felt low and misunderstood. Children told me that they felt alone since their parents separated and hated having to choose which parent to be with. Couples expressed how in lockdown they could no longer use busyness as a way of hiding the distance that had occurred between them and families highlighted that they had noticed some serious eating difficulties that they would never had noticed had they not been having three meals a day with their child.

It seemed that Lockdown had brought about new insights and so the generosity in clients sharing their stories and newfound insights enabled me to dig deep. ‘Come on Jo there must be a way we can make this work’ So I did what I know how to do, be my authentic self and be honest.

At the start of my sessions, I shared with families old and new how I work and together we found a way of being creative, using the resources we could share. So, I learnt that other people have felt tips pens too, that people can tear bits of paper to create maps and timelines. That the screen is no barrier to humour, to being able to empathise and share in another’s pain and the screen is no obstacle to having conversations which involve exploration, challenge, and debate.

I am privileged to have been able to maintain my private practice and be part of our wonderful NHS Children’s Mental Health Team in which I have seen the endless efforts we have made to be able to keep connecting and finding ways of helping children and young people be connected and looked after in times of great hardship and distress. We have all witnessed so much change I am surprised our heads have not exploded! So, I continue to work online but I am also grateful that the majority of my work is back face to face at my home, the Elysia Centre, the oasis in my week and the place where I see miracles happen.

Despite the pain of lockdown, the uncertainty and many other unpredictable consequences of COVID-19 many truly amazing new insights have occurred for many of my families that would have taken a lot longer to surface with goodness knows what consequences if these crazy unprecedented times had not occurred, and I am so grateful to have shared theses difficult times with so many.

With Love Jo x

To find out more or to arrange an appointment: Joanne King

Lockdown took my felts away but gave me something else!