Welcome to my guest post series: A Day In Private Practice. Meet Therapist & Mediator Von Coves.
Von Coves is a PACFA registered therapist and mediator in private practice in Leichhardt, in Sydney’s Inner West. She has a Masters in Counselling & Psychotherapy, Bachelor in Psychology & Philosophy, Grad. Cert. Management, and is an Accredited Mediator. Von is an integrative psychotherapist informed by psychodynamic, narrative, somatic, ecotherapy, mindfulness and meditation practices, she tailors her approach to the individual needs of each client. Von’s specialty is helping those who want to explore deeply in order to connect with themselves and the world.
A Monday in Private Practice with Therapist & Mediator Von Coves
I work part-time in my own practice, Ready to Talk Therapy. I am also employed part-time in the field of dispute resolution. My working hours are flexible as I have many different commitments, and I love variety. I see clients face-to-face at my therapy space in Leichhardt, and online from my office or home.
7:30am: Wake up & Connect
I stay in bed for a few minutes as I meditate on feeling gratitude for the good things I have in my life – my connections with people, the joy I find in my psychotherapy practice, the Australian native garden I have created. I felt I was lost in the wilderness in my early years, and now I have everything I need. Doing my own therapy, along with meditation, studying, and connecting with like-minded people, helped me create the life I want, one that resonates for me. I became a therapist later in life, when I finally had the privilege of financial security to go back to study again, and the skills to set up a business.
7:45am: Coffee & Music
First things first, I make a coffee. Then another coffee. I’m a night owl so it takes a while for my brain to wake up. I check my emails to see if there are any booking changes. I put muesli, blueberries and coconut yoghurt into a container to take to eat at my office. I listen to the ABC to catch up on news. When I need to shift from the stress of the news, I put on music. I like to start my work day feeling grounded, so I pay mindful attention as I feed the tadpoles in my little pond.
8:45am: More Coffee & Breakfast
I drive to my office. I recently established this new practice with another therapist and I love it so much. I had been working online in lockdown and it’s wonderful to see people face to face again. I’m really proud of the space because it took us so much time and thought and sheer hard work. Whenever I buy anything for the space, I think ‘would this make someone feel safe and comfortable and cared for?’ It took me a while to find the right sofa, as I didn’t want to entrench body discrimination. Flimsy chairs make people in larger bodies feel uncomfortable, because they send a clear signal that they don’t belong in the space.
My office is in the heart of Leichhardt. It’s a busy shopping and restaurant precinct in the Inner West of Sydney. It is very tranquil in my room, although I can hear a bit of traffic which is a reminder of the hustle and bustle below. I like to feel settled and focused for my clients, so I add essential oil to the diffuser and put on binaural beats https://open.spotify.com/track/1UD5b074en48msjATTQIx4?si=2e59063c39774df2. I pop downstairs and order an espresso from the Italian coffee bar where the old men are watching soccer. I go back up to my tranquil room and enjoy my muesli and coffee while I set up for the first client of the day.
9:30am: Client & Covid
My client calls to say she was just advised she is a close Covid contact, so can we move the session online. I send her a link and we are away! It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to work around things that used to be difficult, like physical distance, by using technology and creativity. My client found out as she was driving to see me, so she has parked to do therapy on her phone in her car. I check whether she feels comfortable to talk, and she turns the phone to show me around. I can see through the windscreen that it is a private spot and the strange noise is just the wind in the trees.
Many therapists write client notes after the session or at the end of the day. I like to remain completely focused for the full session, and then let go of that focus completely at the end. The best way for me to do this is to write notes with the client in the session. So I’ve jotted things down and at the end I ask the client whether my understanding is correct. I ask what resonated for her, what she’ll take away from the session, and what she’d like us to follow up next time.
10:30am: To Do List
I get up and move after the session. I prepare the space for the next client and do some things on my ‘to do’ list. With a house and a business and a family to organise, there’s always some bill to pay and chores to catch up on. I call to organise the plumber for home, book accommodation for an upcoming family holiday, and schedule a fitness class. I am so happy to have found a fitness studio that celebrates body diversity and promotes a peaceful relationship with movement.
My next client is face-to-face and I welcome him to his usual spot on the couch. Clients can feel so awkward at first, and I notice that positive change is happening because he is feeling more comfortable on the couch – taking up more space, leaning back, even looking me in the eye.
12pm: Crunchy Snacks & Podcasts
I pop across the road to the supermarket and buy milk for my afternoon tea, things to cook for dinner, and crunchy snacks. I love listening to podcasts as I shop, something therapy or meditation related like Jodie Gale, Esther Perel, or Dan Harris. Today it’s The Mental Illness Happy Hour with Paul Gilmartin. Paul used to be a stand-up comedian and he interviews creative people who have experienced trauma. His guests are profoundly brave, sharing details of their sex addiction, psychosis, or growing up in a totally chaotic environment. The show can be very triggering, as nothing is off-limits, but the host is full of hope. He reminds us that no matter how bad things feel, ‘just remember, you are not alone’.
12:45pm: Banh Mi & Stolen Focus
I pick up a Vietnamese banh mi and go back to eat lunch while I do more online chores. I check my emails and see a review for a new book by Johann Hari, Stolen Focus. I have enjoyed his previous work on depression and addiction, so I buy the new book. I have a wry smile because things that some of us have known for years (for example, that addiction has its roots in trauma) are only now being popularised in the media. But it is great that these ideas are moving into the mainstream.
Another client arrives for the last face-to-face session before I leave the office for the afternoon.
2:30pm: Home Time
I drive to pick up pet supplies and then make my way home. When I get there I find a copy of Jonice Webb’s book Running on Empty on the doorstep. It might be helpful for clients who struggle with the legacy of childhood emotional neglect.
I listen to the Waking Up app for a 10-minute guided meditation. The app has meditations, poetry and conversations on neuroscience, Buddhism, and philosophy. Having been reminded of the illusory nature of the self, I take a nap.
If I’m not listening to the Waking Up app I might listen to a Pema Chodron meditation on compassion . I have found that the only way to be an open and honest therapist is to practice deep compassion for myself and others. Many people who become therapists are high in empathy, which is good, however empathy can be a double-edged sword. While it helps us to understand a client’s feelings, it can also mean that we experience another’s pain. To defend against this pain, therapists can unconsciously turn away from clients and shut them down. After reading Matthieu Ricard’s work, I found that the solution is to practice compassion for myself, for my clients, and for the world. This helps me fill up the tank so I can continue to sit with people and not turn away from their pain and suffering.
4pm: Continued Professional Development
I try to keep up with the latest information and training offers, but the volume can be overwhelming. I’m currently undertaking online training in DBT by Lane Pederson who outlines clear and direct strategies for clients who need help to manage emotional volatility. I’m also doing the Shapes of Grief course with Liz Gleeson. She’s an Irish psychotherapist with a deep understanding of clients who feel broken by prolonged and complicated grief.
5:30pm: Walk & Talk
I start making dinner for my family. When it’s almost ready, I take the dog for a long walk and call an old friend for a chat.
We share dinner in front of the TV – tonight we enjoy a cooking show.
8pm: Therapy Practice Admin
After dinner I do more admin. I also check Facebook and Reddit therapy groups. As a therapist & mediator, I like to read up on what clients and practitioners are struggling with and what others are suggesting to help. I get a lot out of online groups, particularly those on CPTSD and Psychotherapy.
9:30pm: Online Client
I’m awake and full of energy at this time, and I see my final client for the day online. She is in Russia and the time zone difference means that it is daytime for her. She has no privacy when her husband is at home, so we meet online in a coffee shop. She is comfortable because we work in English and no-one in the coffee shop can understand what she’s saying. I’m working from home but sometimes I’ll go back into the office to work after dinner.
10:30pm: Tea & Admin
I make a mug of tea and put my feet up to enjoy an evening snack of hummus and crackers. I do more admin and watch the news. I’m lucky that I find admin very relaxing. I email my supervisor to confirm my next session. I email client reminders and send a consent form to a new client to read before our first session. I check that all bookings are in my diary, and I send out payment invoices and receipts.
11:45pm: Bath & Bed
I enjoy a relaxing bath and then it’s time for bed.
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