It’s no surprise COVID has changed every way we operate this last year. From personal to professional, a great deal of change has been forced on most of us in more ways than we anticipated. This has been abundantly true in my experience, as well. In a field where face to face interaction is about 90% of your work, not being able to meet with clients in person was definitely one of the greatest challenges I faced in 2020.
In-person interaction with the clients we serve is truly invaluable. A lot of our work involves just sitting with a client and being a solid object, or solid, steady person, they can share their heart with. Sometimes they just need someone to listen, or even just share the same space with them when emotions feel too heavy to carry alone. An essential part of getting to know a client and forming that critical connection is body language. This allows for better self-expression and the exchange of personal gestures that just don’t translate through the screen. Communication can also feel stuffy or less personal online. I’ve found clients are more reserved when we’re not able to physically share each other’s’ company. With this figurative and literal barrier between you and a client, it can sometimes impede the potential for progress.
We also know COVID is negatively impacting high risk populations more than others, as access to all their usual resources are not all necessarily available online. I’ve had several clients who are not able to access Zoom or other online platforms, and therefore the only alternative is to not meet at all if we can’t meet in person. Phone calls are definitely better than nothing, but they’re no substitute. I cannot articulate just how much 2020 and this pandemic have really revealed to us the true value of face to face, human interaction.
While it’s been an incredibly frustrating season, it’s also forced growth upon us in really getting creative with staying connected to clients, regardless of what COVID has thrown our way. While working a program through a screen is not preferred, it’s sometimes all we can do! Therefore, we make the best of it. I think staying consistent with our clients has been the most critical and impactful component of adapting to so many unexpected changes. I have had several clients say logging on with us is the best part of their week, and it is absolutely mine. I’ve also found dropping off materials with little fun surprises, even something as small as a new notebook or some candy has also been quite impactful in lifting spirits when we can’t meet in person. It’s making small gestures of effort that show others you care and you’re still here, no matter what. I also don’t think I’ve ever valued a genuine smile the way I do now, because that is one thing that will always still translate through a screen.
These events that transpired this year were unlike anything we could have seen coming. But maybe we learned more about ourselves and our capabilities than we ever would have otherwise (and the same goes for our clients). This year has changed what we thought possible for client care. We will carry these new lessons with us moving forward for the duration of our time working with our survivors, and we will never be the same because of it, in the very best way. When you operate with the same established patterns for so long, you almost forget the power of raw creativity. I think the pandemic was a real “drawing board” moment for us all. You’re not sure what to do or how you’ll move forward, you just know that you will
-Rachel Baker, Youth Care Coordinator–