And We Danced . . .

By: Michael Toohey, Psy.D. | May 1, 2020

Over the past few months, the COVID-19 virus has had a tremendous impact on the world. I see people overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, and afraid of intimate contact with others outside of their family or housemates. Although COVID-19 presents as a novel experience for many, gay men like me see it with a lot familiarity. We’ve lived with the impact of a virus in our community for nearly four decades.

At first, we feared others because no one knew what caused us to get sick then die or how transmission occurred. We stressed each time we got the results of HIV antibody tests, knowing that no medications existed to help us if we tested positive. We anxiously awaited the results of vaccine trials, only to suffer disappointment again and again and again. We were overwhelmed at the deaths of our partners, friends, neighbors, coworkers, volunteers, mates, and the familiar faces we’d always seen in the coffee shop, then never to see again.

And through it all, we danced. Literally.

We danced as an expression of life. We danced in defiance of the virus that decimated our community. We danced for those of us who could not dance or had passed. We danced because we had so little control, and it was the one thing we could control. We danced to embrace life because none of us knew how long we would live, and we wanted the most out of living regardless of how long life might go on.

COVID-19 presents as a dramatically accelerated version of what my community experienced in the past. The highly contagious virus has dramatically and unexpectedly caused all of us to change overnight. It overwhelms us. We anxiously await the day that everything returns to normal. The longer we wait, however, it feels like normal gets further and further away. All of this has produced psychological, emotional, and physical stress.

COVID-19 requires immediate change. We shelter in place to protect ourselves and our neighbors. After six weeks, however, many realize the need for adaptation and additional change in our lives. We therapists, quite literally, are in the business of change. We help people navigate a variety of difficult life situations. When we begin with new clients, we consider which of five different stages of the change model each individual exists in creating change in their lives:

1.  Pre-contemplation

Not yet acknowledging that a problem exists, needs addressing or change.
Example: ‘Why would I dance, I’m fine.’

2.  Contemplation

Acknowledging that a problem exists but not yet ready to act or lacking confidence to make a change.
Example: ‘I think I’d like to dance, but I’m afraid I’d look silly.’

3.  Preparation

Getting ready to change.
Example: ‘Okay, I picked the music I want to dance to.’

4.  Action/Will Power

Changing behavior.
Example:’ I’m busting a move and it feels great!’

5.  Maintenance

Maintaining the behavioral change.
Example: ‘I dance every day for 45 minutes, or anytime I need a pick-me-up.’

Therapy Changes has adapted and changed due to the virus too. We moved our practice to 100% online teletherapy. With this, we reach people and connect with them not only in San Diego, but all over California. We provide guidance, insight, and techniques for adapting to COVID-19. Clients benefit in that they can participate in teletherapy from anywhere. For example, essential workers may take an hour break from the workplace and have teletherapy in the privacy of their vehicles. For others, accessibility to services can increase while removing the obstacle of commuting to appointments.

If you experience difficulty in adapting to the changing world around us or know someone who is, please do contact us at Therapy Changes. Change is our business. And don’t forget to dance.


Image: Peter Tullett on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

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