The Threesome in my Therapy Office

10 Oct

My clients–whether they are teens, college students, business men in their suits and ties, mothers with pedicured toes–all seat themselves on the comfy couch and then place their uninvited guest close to them: beside them, on their laps, peeking out of their purses or lying unabashedly on the coffee table. They make no apologies for the presence of the third party. No, in fact, in the middle of a sentence they may scoop her up and say, “Here, let me show you what my puppy looks like” or “Well, let me read what he said” …scroll,scroll,scroll….

  smart phone social media conceptI am speaking, of course, of the glowing, dinging, buzzing, vibrating or blinking rectangular wafer: the smart phone. I don’t know just when the moment came that I accepted this intruder into the therapy hour. I know in the beginning, I tried to enforce the no-looking-at-your-phone rule in a weak attempt to maintain the intimacy of therapy: Just you and me and the cognitive emotional process that is the talking cure. Alone together.

But trying to keep that seductive, smooth, soft-cornered,winking and ding-dinging little piece of shiny technology out of our hour was in itself an intrusion. Somewhere along the way my own sleek seducer, the Droid Razor Maxx, found its way to my side, disguised and docked as a very legible clock with date and weather conditions…but even in its clever clock disguise, it whispers to me when someone from the outside world would like my attention.

In the end, because this technology is taking us somewhere emotionally–and because we can’t know for sure the harm nor the good it will bring to relationships and society,  I’ve concluded that psychologists need to struggle along with everyone else with this intruder into our therapy relationships. We need to embrace the smartphone challenges of constant communication, knowledge resources at our fingertips, the built-in distance regulating of text communication instead of voice to voice or face to face and never allowing ourselves to be quite alone. How will our ability to remember things be affected when we carry our memory in our pockets? How will relationships ebb and flow in coming generations of kids who live half the time in the cloud? How will imagination, self-esteem, intelligence evolve?

As a therapist, I need to wonder about these things and observe. So, sure, I’d love to see that picture of your puppy. Go ahead and read what your boyfriend just texted. Then we’ll talk about it.

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