How does it feel to have your sessions interrupted by phone calls, buzzers, beeps, gongs and texts? I don’t always mind. I keep my phone in session usually just in case my kids (or dog) have an emergency. My patients often want to read to me directly from texts that their partners have written to them. This may or may not facilitate the therapeutic process, and here’s why:
- Wouldn’t the therapist rather have your own interpretation of the meaning of things?
- How is it any different than reading a note or letter instead of explaining it?
- It takes up a lot of time; why not summarize?
- Texting is hard enough to understand without trying to second-guess by obsessing.
Still I do understand it and will invite whatever communication the patient wants to share. As the therapist, however, you still want to reach deeper and say, what does this all mean to you?
Sometimes I will try to wager an interpretation or hypothesize as to the other person’s possible intention and see if it rings true for the patient.
- Is it a reality check?
- A cop out?
- A misunderstanding?
- Does it sound mean/abusive or even threatening?
- Is it possible that the person was simply distracted and didn’t want to be hurtful?
- Are texts, by definition, almost impossible to scrutinize due to the obvious lack of context?
- Why not call and clarify?
- Why won’t the other person make a phone call?
- By reading it over and over, how are you helping yourself to move forward?
- What can you do when you cannot stop checking?
It’s almost like because the expectation is for an immediate reply, anything short of that is disastrous for your self-esteem. There has been much written about how texting has destroyed “normal” or “traditional” intimacy.
But what about normal trust and confidence in yourself?
How can we live like this? What are the tricks that our more productive friends use to focus? Probably they are engaged in what they’re doing in the moment, and if there’s a delay, they simply tell themselves, “He must be busy.” What a relief to tell yourself that! Consciously tell yourself, “There is probably nothing wrong. I can wait.”
Young men do seem to have difficulty with planning and emotional intelligence at times. Remind him that you are sensitive to the wait time but understand if he’s busy.
Use your sessions wisely. Chances are, if you spend the whole time reading emails and texts, you are short-changing your own emotional needs.