Please Don’t Touch That Phone….The Smart Phone is Changing My Therapist Office
by Nancy Kislin, LCSW, MFT, Parent Educator
A bright blue iPhone sits on the edge of my coffee table, waiting for its owner—a fifth grader who just got her first phone—to pick it up any second. “Nancy, please, I have to know who just texted me. I can’t wait until we’re done, that’s another 15 minutes! I could be missing something really important.”
I find myself staring at the phone, just anticipating the next buzz, ding, or vibration.
Welcome to the new world of therapy, where I, the therapist, have to compete with technology for my client’s attention.
Smart phones have changed the climate of my therapy office for many clients. It started off innocently enough—moms would forget to silence their phones, reaching quickly into their bags to turn it off. “So sorry Nancy.”
It progressed as I saw men and women keep their phones out and face down. Oh, how I long for those days…
Now, most adults feel the need to keep their phones out and face up. Some are not able to resist the temptation to look at every text or email that pops up. As bad as that may sound, the kids, tweens, and teens tend to be far worse; they have been completely seduced by technology.
To make matters worse, technology is becoming even more prevalent as I now see clients with Apple Watches and other wearables that beep, buzz, or light up, constantly demanding their attention.
I have attempted to tackle this cell phone problem many times.
“Please no phones out during sessions.”
I even purchased a pretty basket for people to put their phones in. While this does work with younger kids, adults and teens find the idea of being totally disconnected unfathomable. Technology has changed the way we want information, the way we connect, and even the way we tolerate intimacy.
I continue to come up with kind, yet direct ways to tell people to take the time to disconnect. Sometimes I’ll say the buzzing and ringing is distracting, causing me to lose my train of thought. Other times I try to explain that therapy is a place to disconnect from technology, to talk, to connect, to process life’s challenges and stresses
It is a time for you, the client, to express yourself uninterrupted.
I like to think of my office—with its old fireplace and pretty French doors letting the light shine in—as a sacred space. It is a privilege for me to be able to help my clients explore the deepest and often most intimate spaces in their minds.
But with technology, it is harder and harder to maintain the sanctity of that sacred space and to help my clients the way they deserve. For some, technology can be a pacifier and security blanket, giving them instant gratification. But for me, the therapist, it is an intruder, interrupting my thoughts and invading our sacred space.