Staying Connecting During a Pandemic
As I write this, our world has been impacted by an invisible monster. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Michigan is under lockdown, we are practicing social-distancing measures, and are unable to practice our regular routines. Therapists have been scrambling to figure out how to still provide mental health services through Telehealth. For many of us it feels like this all happened over night, leaving us to put the pieces together quickly in order to reach many of our most vulnerable clients. As a child therapist who practices play therapy, my first question was, how am I going to get my clients engaged for a full 55-minute session? Surprisingly, most of my clients have transitioned and adjusted to this new form of therapy. For now, Tele-health play therapy will have to be our temporary normal. In the mean time, I have been researching books and directive techniques that could be applied to our current situation. The Invisible String is a wonderful story meant to help kids who may be experiencing some anxiety, loneliness and hurt of being separated from someone they love.
When twins, Liza and Jeremy are awakened by a thunderstorm, they cry out for their mother and plead with her to stay close to them. Mom explains that no matter the distance between them, they are connected by an invisible string. The children come to find that this invisible string called love connects them to all the people they care about and that care about them. This invisible string can even reach all the way to heaven where their Uncle Brian is. This book has a simple message and it presents it well – we are all connected by bonds of love that cannot be broken by our actions, distance or even death. It is beautifully illustrated and a great message for people of all ages.
An intervention that I have been utilizing with my clients after reading The Invisible String book is having them create their own visual of the invisible connections in their lives. I ask them to first either write their name, or draw a picture of themselves in the middle of the page. We then discuss all the different people they care about and that care about them. I will have the client write those peoples names or draw pictures of them around the edges of the paper. We then use glitter glue sticks to connect those people to the center where they are located. I have had great success with this intervention. Parents have told me that their children have taken these illustrations home and hung them in their room and used them as reminders when they may be feeling lonely or anxious due to a separation.
Whether your client has experienced separation prior to the Covid-19 outbreak (due to separation anxiety, divorce, or death), or are now feeling anxious or lonely due to school and extracurricular activity cancellations, or even because they are unable to visit grandparents, the message presented in this book and intervention will help the child to remember that no matter the distance, they are still connected to their loved ones by love. I ironically read The Invisible String book with a client a few weeks ago when the world felt a little safer than it is now. I recently met with this same client over telehealth video session. During our session they stood up closer to the camera and pointed to their heart and asked, "can you feel my string tugging towards you?"