Therapists, Technology, and Mindfulness

Amanda Skowron Romano, PsyD
May 2023

To begin, we will ground ourselves in the moment with a “relieving sigh”

  1. Sit up nice and tall.
  2. Lower your gaze towards the ground.
  3. Take a regular inhale through the nose.
  4. Slowly let all the air out through the mouth with an extended exhale while making a slight sound.

As carbon dioxide builds up in the bloodstream, a person feels increasingly agitated and jittery. The “relieving sigh” is a way to release carbon dioxide and alleviate stress in real time. Now that we are centered, we can begin to explore how even therapists experience stress.

Technology impacts us as human beings and as therapists. In 2005, five percent of adults (Pew Research Center, 2021) in the United States reported using a social media platform. Currently, 70 percent (Perrin & Anderson, 2019) of adults now engage in social media. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic made nearly a full turn to telehealth for therapists. “An APA survey found that 50% of psychologists had moved to offering both in-person and virtual services to their patients, up from 30% in 2020” (APA, 2022).

Being therapists in the fast growing world of telehealth and social media, we are faced with many decisions about how we want our clinical practices to look. Reflecting on these pulls for healthcare providers to engage in the technical world, it led me to think about the pressures each of us face, and the immense value that can come from a mindfulness practice.

The world of technology tends to thrive on the concept of some people being “special” or standing out. Truth be told, not everyone will be rockstars at social media or telehealth or even want to engage those platforms at all! Know your strengths, know your growth areas, and know that we are all trying to figure out these technical changes together. We can gain this self awareness through a mindfulness practice of awareness, nonjudgement, and self compassion.

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness is as follows: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” Jon Kabat-Zinn. (Full Catastrophe Living, 2013). There are many benefits of “awareness” and the power of taking a “non-judgmental” approach to the pressures that we are currently facing.  Mindful awareness is paying attention and being in the present, which allows us to concentrate and to see more clearly. Awareness allows us to see things as they are. In recognizing the often unspoken pressures of implementing telehealth services, adapting to changing workspaces, and being more vulnerable through social media engagement, we benefit from present moment awareness. Entering such awareness grants us the wisdom and ability to see this challenging technological landscape through a non-judgmental lens.

What is a non-judgmental perspective? It means taking an impartial view to our own experience by becoming aware of the constant stream of judgments and reactions to inner and outer experiences. Judgments tend to dominate our minds, making it difficult for us ever to find any sense of peace. Instead, we can build the skill of observing how preoccupied the mind is with “liking” and “disliking”.

It is not about stopping the judgments. It’s about being aware that the judgments are happening. As therapists adjust to telehealth and social media, it is imperative that we become aware of how we speak to ourselves and the judgments that are present.

Engagement in mindful awareness sets the stage for self-compassion. Kristin Neff’s research has found: “Self-compassion allows for greater self-clarity, because personal failings can be acknowledged with kindness and do not need to be hidden…. Research indicates that self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behavior, as well as less narcissism and reactive anger.” (Kristin Neff, 2023).

So the next time you find yourself being overwhelmed by change or comparing yourself to a fellow colleague’s social media post or new marketing website, drop anchor in the moment by engaging in ACE (Russ Harris, The Happiness Trap, 2022).

  • ACKNOWLEDGE your thoughts and feelings
  • COME BACK into your body
  • ENGAGE in what you are doing

Perhaps most importantly though, please always remember… we are doing the best we can… in this moment.

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