As I drive up to the elementary school to pick up my children, I resemble every other working parent at the curb. Silver “mini-mom” van doors slide open as my children slither inside, and off we go toward our afternoon activities – either grocery shopping or baseball practice or religious school or gymnastics.
But I am not just any mom picking up my kids after school. I have an alter-ego.
I am a psychotherapist who practices her craft in an office and on the world wide web.
My day often begins at 5am, with a steamy cup of sweet coffee and a computer. As I sip and my eyelids respond more steadily to the caffeine, I check my email for any last minute changes to my schedule. I use online schedulers for both my face-to-face practice as well as for the clients that I see through an e-clinic. My next stop on the information super highway is to travel over to my social networking sites, picking up interesting psychological articles or news happenings and sharing them with friends, colleagues, clients and even some potential clients along the way. This morning’s article of interest centered on a computer hacker who created an innocuous profile and wormed his way onto the friends list of hundreds of military and intelligence professionals by claiming to be an analyst they knew. Using Hootsuite, I share this article with everyone in my Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter contact lists, encouraging people to use this article as a means to open a dialogue with their children and their spouses about the importance of maintaining safety online. Spontaneously, an instant messenger window opens up, and a high school classmate comments that she saw the article, and has been experiencing something similar (a friend request by someone alleging to have been an acquaintance). We chat about this for a while, and my friend informs me that she has just given my name out to someone she met who has been “having a hard time.” I smile to myself – it’s not even 6am, and I’ve effectively marketed my skills.
Off to the shower.
By 7:30am, I am comfortably situated in my office, working with the first of my six face-to-face clients for the day. Many of these clients have been given my name through their company’s employee assistance program, or mental health insurance plan. Some have been referred by friends and physicians in the area as well. Most, however, inform me during their first session that they chose to make an appointment with me after seeing my website, www.AudreyJung.com, and deciding that they could connect with me on an emotional level. A few even confide that they used a search engine to hunt for my name, and were pleased with what they found.
Just after lunch, I check my email, and find that I have an encrypted message waiting for me. This is a response from a client I have been working with online – someone who works third shift, and finds that counseling during traditional office hours is difficult for him to commit to, as he tends to be asleep (or very drowsy) during that time. I consult my calendar, and set aside a block of time to read, process and respond to his email session later in the afternoon. I respond to a discussion thread amongst the board members of a professional organization, set up a secure poll using our website platform, and call for a vote. I have found that a lot of good intentions can get lost in the internet “ether” if a structured approach is not taken toward organizational management – even if this organization exists solely online.
My final appointment today is a video session scheduled through a secure, web-based platform. I set my laptop onto a special riser, so that my webcam will have better access to my face. I log into the online “meeting”, and await the client’s connection. We chat for the next 50 minutes, and I share some mental health models and resources that I have accumulated over the years. We discuss short term goals for the coming week, and the client promises to set another appointment online using the scheduler.
The trickiest part of my day is about to approach – setting aside my work to balance my life with my family. I zoom off to the elementary school, and pick up my children. We chat about school, friends and bullies, review homework assignments and plan the weeks’ events. I cook dinner, cringe in hopeful expectation that the children will eat it, and then clean up the kitchen while the rest of the family heads off to prepare for bedtime. After tucking the tikes into their beds for a good night’s rest, I open my laptop and review the email that had arrived earlier in the day. I craft a response, encourage a chat session for additional exploration and append a few helpful psychoeducational links. This can sometimes take 30 to 50 minutes… imagine the time it would take you to write a 200 word essay on a technical topic of your choice. I encrypt the email and send it back to the client.
It is now 9pm, and time for some quality time with my hubby. He encourages me to put my laptop down, and to discuss our upcoming vacation plans. My phone beeps once – a client just checking in that he has been experiencing some symptoms while on the job but is doing just fine, will see me in the morning. I settle back into the couch and enjoy the company of my husband and the drama on t.v. Bedtime rolls around, and I fall asleep shortly after my head hits the pillow, content that I’ve achieved balance in my work-life-net day.