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How the pandemic revolutionised Therapy on Tour

Tiffany Hudson, a BAPAM-affiliated psychotherapist, discusses how online mental health support evolved throughout lockdown

12 Apr 2021

Tiffany Hudson, Therapy on Tour

My career in live music began in 2004. My first shift was working as local event crew on Madonna’s Re-Invention tour.

Six months prior, I worked in a windowless Tesco cash office, listening to the radio and daydreaming about hopping on a tour bus with one of my favourite bands and getting the heck out of my hometown. As a relatively lonely kid, I longed for connection, and decided that ‘on the road’ was where I could find it.

I was often met with such warmth at gigs, whether it was sitting with the fans, waiting for doors to open, or chatting with the bands and crew at after-show events. I experienced an immense feeling of belonging from working as local crew, which continued as I began to tour in various job roles.

Touring life was a whirlwind of terrific adventures and intense connections but also… excess

Touring life was a whirlwind of terrific adventures and intense connections but also… excess. I began to grow a little weary eight years into touring, and had lost my direction.

I found a wonderful therapist who was flexible with session times – provided I was ready to commit to the work. I started to get a grip on my life again. Inspired by my positive personal experience with therapy, I began training as an integrative psychotherapist.

Therapy on Tour officially opened its doors in 2019, intending to serve the touring and entertainment industry. Not long after this, the coronavirus pandemic struck.

The impact on the many hundreds of thousands of artists and crew who invest their entire lives into live events was catastrophic. After the immediate health and financial concerns, came a string of losses. People lost their loved ones, homes, relationships, and in many cases, a sense of their identity.

Therapists began shifting their practices online at a radical rate, which opened up previously unavailable opportunities

As a relatively sociable profession, event industry workers create close-knit bonds in their studios, workshops and within their tour families, all of which had been suddenly put on pause. These physical connections were painfully missed.

Video conferencing platforms became our only way to communicate with friends and loved ones outside of our households. Despite apps like Skype being commonly used for well over a decade by touring folk to contact friends and family back home, it was not relied upon so heavily before.

The benefit of the entire industry moving into the online realm was a good move for mental health support. Therapists began shifting their practices online at a radical rate, which opened up previously unavailable opportunities.

As Therapy on Tour could no longer be ‘on tour’ I re-considered what mental health support I could now offer to grounded industry professionals. As well as one-to-one work, I ran a pilot support group online.

By valuing each other’s strengths and respecting our limitations, we can forge a stronger, more inclusive community

The peer community provided a space to connect with others experiencing similar challenges, while rebuilding a sense of community through mutual support. Based on its success, I intend to pursue further online group work.

As events slowly begin to fire up again the focus is now on how to stay sustainably healthy on the way back into event life, and beyond. Take a moment to ask yourself how your pre-pandemic life treated you.

Is there anything that you would like to change when we return? This could be an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate priorities. For those unable to return to the live events sector just yet, I hope to see increased support between peers. By valuing each other’s strengths and respecting our limitations, we can forge a stronger, more inclusive creative community.

Throughout our community, I’m encouraged to see a better understanding of the support that industry professionals need and more organisations working together to help. Continuing to connect to our peers via online platforms will also help to keep us afloat.

As the world is working its way back into some kind of regularity there is a sense of just needing to hang on for a little longer

Even though online connections will never be a substitute for all in-person social contact, it has provided a solid foundation for community-based support services and therapies.

As the world is working its way back into some kind of regularity and a roadmap has been laid out for the tentative promised land beyond 21st June [in the UK], there is a sense of just needing to hang on for a little longer.

Live events offer so much more than just a place of entertainment. They provide a setting in which we can feel big emotions as a collective, as a tribe. The audience’s passionate shout-singing, crying or moshing energy spills over to the bands and crew, and unites us all through the unique live experience. Keep holding on tight, we will be back.

 


Tiffany Hudson is a psychotherapist working independently and with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM)

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