Ray Barrett met with Dee Wagner, LPC, BC-DMT, and expert on Stephen Porges' polyvagal theory to discuss the implications of the forced use of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic and how the increased and continued use of technology will affect clinicians and clients.
Wagner states that it is very important with any body awareness work that there is always a clear invitation (so as not to trigger a traumatic response) and that the clinician wait for a response to the invitation since rarely does one respond positively to being told what to do. It is through mindfulness and slowing down, expressing curiosity, as well as maintaining purposeful contralateral movement that we can avoid dorsal vagal shutdown during this period of quarantine.
The world has been forced to use video, phone, and text to stay connected. Wagner acknowledges that the experience of video meetings is similar to the experience of an eyeball - looking through a space and being able to focus either intently or more broadly. There is a feeling of protection with that choice, by only connecting through that limited focal space. You can expand or contract that experience on either side of the screen by simply moving closer to (or further from) screen. Phone therapy can be very effective because the voice has to work harder over the phone. Texting is a positive experience as well. The act of pulling words into concept and then the articulation of thought that occurs when the fingers tap out the message is one method to express the frustration one might be feeling about the fact that we can't meet in person.
There are obvious drawbacks to technology to acknowledge and to which we can adapt accordingly. Be mindful of urges to behave in certain ways during video meetings; there might be things you would do online that you wouldn't normally do in an in-person setting. There is a degree of lag time on video, yet participants are "together." How we conduct the dance of co-regulation is important because it can feel like that is missing since we can't smell or touch in video meetings. Wagner is experimenting with breaking that time/space barrier in video meetings - she and participants play catch with an imaginary ball. This act is similar to reflective listening: "Did I catch it? (i.e. Did I hear you correctly?)"
Dee Wagner is an LPC in the state of Georgia, a Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist, a writer, presenter, trainer, and coach. Her most recent article, "How to Cough without Shame: Polyvagal & Trauma-informed Breathing" can be found online at Elephant Journal. You can reach Dee by visiting her website, Harbor of Dreams Art.