COVID-19 anniversary: New Yorkers take stock of a year in the life of the pandemic

woman sit on couch video call

The ‘magic’ of therapy proves durable

Twenty years into her career as a therapist, Melissa Giuttari has an array of clients and a regular routine. She’d ride the PATH train from home in Jersey City to the 9th Street stop in Manhattan, near her Greenwich Village office, where her sessions were up-close and face-to-face.

Carefully appointed and lit, her professional space, she says, “is cozy and curated for healing. COVID-19 stripped that all away.”

Giuttari hasn’t seen a patient there in a year.

The turning point came after attending the Broadway revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” starring Laurie Metcalf and Rupert Everett as sparring spouses. She’d just seen the Edward Albee play when a drama unfolded around the production. News broke on March 11 that a part-time usher at the show tested positive for coronavirus.

“My first thought was that I might have been exposed, and I didn’t want to put anyone else at risk,” says Giuttari, who’s in her 40s. “I reached out to clients to do either a virtual session or to reschedule for the [next] week — and that next week never came.”

She had qualms about Zoom counseling. “A lot of the magic in therapy happens through nonverbal communication between therapist and client,” she says. A year later, virtual sessions are working despite challenges including the lost closeness. The magic is durable.

Her roster of clients has grown “by a third,” an increase she believes is linked to the pandemic’s toll on mental health. When it’s safe to do so, she plans to return to the office and continue with remote sessions. “Some patients worry that they’ll never see me in person again,” she says, “and some of them have moved out of the city.”

Hallmarks of the past 12 months include self-affirmation and empathy. “The past year has highlighted how much I love the work I do,” she says. “I’m going through the same thing patients are — anxiety, grief, depression. We’re all going through this together.”

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