And just like that...I’m back in the Playroom. In person!
Well...it wasn’t exactly that seamless. It was more like 5,234 trips up the elevator with all of my toys I took home at the beginning of the pandemic, setting up a new desk and file cabinet, shifting toys around my playroom, adding new toys, assessing my COVID-19 in office policies, procedures, and paperwork, notifying my clients, juggling who was in person and who wanted to still stay virtual, re-activating my parking, and notifying the office of my return.
Oh yeah, and reconfiguring my computer to the new wifi and printer. Ugh. Tech is the worst.
I wanted to share with you 6 things I noticed about coming back into the office after being back for a couple of weeks. If you are already back in person I hope this makes you feel seen and that you can relate! If you are thinking about going back here are some things that might help you a bit to see what is to come!
You might forget what floor you are on
Or you try to enter the wrong building after you get your morning coffee. True story. To my credit, I hadn't had my morning coffee so classic mistake. Some things about coming back were a bit fuzzy and after sitting in the elevator for a minute trying to figure out what button to push you realize that this is old, but this is new too.
You’ve done it thousands of times before, but it has been a loooong time since you have been in this routine. Give yourself some grace. For me, it had been a year and a half since being in person at the office. And for this one - don’t worry - your neural networks for your office routine will blow the dust right off and it will be like you never left in no time!
My timing is off
See the former on the whole “this is old, but it is new too” thing. I didn’t have to get up off my chair to close down my sessions. I didn’t have to get up to greet people. The clean up from the session was timed differently. All of this has resulted in getting done a little after I wanted to, or maybe a little too early. Mostly for me, it was not ending with enough time to wrap down the session, walk my client to the waiting room, come back, take a breath, and finish my note.
This was also complicated by the fact that a portion of my caseload is also virtual. SO my timing for getting my computer setup ready (on my coffee table, which has the best light), make sure the cord and camera are attached, and login after having a session where my computer was over on my desk was also off too! All of this led to me playing catch up on paperwork my first week and a half. Again, you get back into the hang of it and your flow comes back!
My memory and information retrieval was hazy
I’m not going to lie - the first week was rough. I chalk it up to state dependent learning. Not only was I in a completely different space the last time I met clients (ie my house) we were also having sessions over a computer. AND even though I had notes from the past session it was hard for me to recall with clarity (as much as I typically have) the content of the session.
Also it was harder to retrieve more complex words or internal scrips I had for explaining concepts like polyvagal theory. It just felt...stuck. It was also hard for my brain to process that my clients were...different. I mean, they didn’t change BUT my brain was used to seeing them on a computer screen and getting their audio into my earbuds and now in person my brain was working hard to make sense of these changes. After about 2 days things were well on their way to back to typical - wheew!
I needed to re-orient clients to the play space
Clients had been playing for over a year and a half in a virtual way. A way where kids played with play kits, in a space in their home, with a different setup and structure. Some kids played virtually where we entered a game together or with screen sharing. And from what we know (see above) it is hard for adults to transition back to in person sessions, it’s also different, new, and sometimes difficult for young people too.
Acknowledging the shift significantly helped as well as re-orienting to the Playroom and the toys. For some young people they had been in the Playroom before and knew what it looked like and where they could find the toys and at the same time they were also taking in a slightly new office set up and some new friends in the Playroom. For others that I started seeing during the pandemic, the Playroom was completely new. I conceptualized the first session or two of coming back to be like clients coming into your play space for the first time - looking at the new things, re-orienting to the things they knew, and trying all the things out!
Clients know what to do
This is one of my most favorite things I learned about coming back into the office. It is about the resilience of children. For kids to pick up right where they left off. For some clients, this meant literally picking up where they left off during the last office session. You hear them say “do you remember when we played with the horses - we’re going to play that game again”. And just like that they get into their play and themes. They are doing the work.
I’m excited and emotional at the sight of sand on my floor
Ackk! I never thought I would be so in LOVE with the sight of messy sand all over my floor, (ask me in three months I may feel differently) let alone have it bring me to gushy tears. Seeing the toys around the office floor. Feeling the energy of clients with you playing in person, where you can actually reach out and grab something from them. All of that has helped re-energize me as to why we do the work that we do. Why we are Play Therapists.
I still hold gratitude for Tele-Play and what it has allowed us to do, and although I don’t think it is going anywhere, I am dang ecstatic to be back in the Playroom!
What about you? If you are back in office comment below with what you have noticed!
Oh! And if you are looking for resources to help support young people get back in the groove of things check out Transitioning to Life After the Pandemic by Dr. Karen Fried and Dr. Melissa Mullin or The World Made a Rainbow by Michelle Robinson!
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I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC,