Considerations about the current situation in time of pandemic

We are living a terrible situation. Tragic. Fear, anxiety, loss, desperation and depressive thoughts are just some of the feelings I experience at times. They come in waves, contrasting with hope, serenity and the capacity to feel pleasure with small, important routines and interactions.

At a social level it is catastrophic. The current impact of the quarantine and the loss of lives is already a reality. The economic and the wider social and cultural impact is yet to come. The consequences are unforeseen. The biggest economic collapse since the 1930´s? A door to totalitarianism? Biological terrorism?

At the same time, absolute power is now more relative. Everyone, every group, and every country is vulnerable. I am hopeful that the current crises, opens an opportunity to reflect on ourselves, the others and the World. There is a push for cooperation and compassion, to value friends and family, neighbours and small communities, local products, local production, local knowledge. Pollution has reduced, consumerism has declined, travelling has almost stopped. The planet was crying for compassion with climate change, for better rules in the neoliberal arena, for political cooperation, for global union, for global causes.

The crisis brings an opportunity for change, a real one, perhaps the last one. I am hopeful and fearful about the future.

At a professional level, 80% of my practice is now online. Many relational features are lost, but others (in a smaller amount) are gained, such as the possibility of monitoring our own behaviour by constantly looking at ourselves on the camera. I continue to visit Casa de Alba, a democratic residential therapeutic community I manage in Portugal, 2 or 3 times weekly. Life in the TC has changed dramatically, with rules for physical (not social) distancing, the use of masks by the staff, permanent disinfection, and other unforeseen rules. Impressively, residents are relatively calm, and staff is reacting professionally. So far we have no cases of covid-19. I feel similarly about the Democratic Therapeutic Communities as I feel for myself and the World. The crisis brings many losses to the life of the community, but it also brings new opportunities for reflection, cooperation and unity. The values of dialogue and democracy keep well alive, even the tuff contingency plans of covid-19 can be discussed and decided democratically in the TC, even if some decisions must be made by the staff alone. The concept of fluid hierarchy comes foreword in times of crisis. Staff has more knowledge and information on how to act, residents allow staff to create many of the current rules.

Hopefully, we will be able to learn and grow with what´s happening. And remember the year of 2020 as a dark, traumatic, but life changing (for the better) year.

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Article author

João G. Pereira

João G. Pereira

He is the Clinical Director of Romão de Sousa Foundation and the Therapeutic Community “Casa de Alba” in Portugal. He holds a Doctorate in Psychotherapy by Middlesex University, following several years in the UK National Health Service developing and researching therapeutic programs.

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