“I think as things ease, people are coming out of survival mode and beginning to feel all the feelings they’ve been having to ignore for so long.” Dr Emma Svanberg on working as a psychologist during the pandemic…
Dr Emma Svanberg is a clinical psychologist working with parents and parents-to-be. A writer, speaker and activist, she works alongside a collective of other psychologists, together offering support for the whole family.
This past year, in a word, has been … a rollercoaster.
At first, my work was … Things slowed down for us therapists in the first lockdown, I think during March and April people felt a bit shell shocked at what was happening and were adjusting to this new way of life and figuring out how to juggle everything.
Referrals picked up as the intensity of lockdown kicked in. I think a lot of people were coping as well as can be expected, and the lockdown over winter was pretty disastrous for people in terms of mental health.
We have been under such strain for such a long time, and the impact is really showing now. I think as things ease, people are coming out of survival mode and beginning to feel all the feelings they’ve been having to ignore for so long.
What I realised I needed to do was … offer support and a framework to understand our experience.
And so I … Initially, my colleagues and I provided as much support and psychoeducation as we could on my free parenting community The Village. That wound down a bit as lockdown continued but the group has been a tremendous source of support throughout this year.
As well as supporting clients through therapy, I also wanted to make sense of some of the experiences people were having for a wider community. I think at times like this it can help to understand what we’re going through, especially when we’re feeling that there’s not much we can control.
What I have done amazingly well is … Nothing. This year wasn’t about being amazing but about getting through as best we could
Running my own business this past year has been … very challenging at times, but I’ve been incredibly grateful to have a job that could be adjusted to remote working, and to be able to (virtually) walk beside people on this difficult path.
Now, looking back over the 12 months just gone, I feel … like it’s time to process.
In term of the future of my business/work, I feel … hopeful that mental health will be taken more seriously because it has been (still too small) a part of the national conversation, particularly maternity experiences through the pandemic and the impact on babies and toddlers.
The New Start For Life proposals are promising, although I’m obviously a bit cynical given how much the NHS and social care has been affected by the pandemic.
The hardest thing about working through a pandemic was … being in a pandemic. Obviously we don’t get trained to help people manage the threat of a new virus! But something I do love about psychology is that the evidence base is so broad and it meant I learned so much this year. I’d have obviously preferred not to have to learn it.
What I have done amazingly well is … Nothing. This year wasn’t about being amazing but about getting through as best we could. We’re here, we’ve managed the most intense year, that is amazing enough.