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Mental health approach changes during pandemic
Star - 4/3/2020
Apr. 3--A lot of attention has been rightly placed on the physical well-being of everyone young and old as the state deals with the COVID-19 outbreak. But for those struggling with issues of the mind, there is still help available.
With government mandated orders that people stay home as much as possible and growing uncertainty around the COVID-19 virus, Shelby Wellness and Therapy Center recently moved all of its operations online. The center is also gearing up to start offering new programs for people struggling with the current times.
"Right now I think everybody is a little on edge with everything that is going on, so anxiety is super high, even for people who haven't experienced it in the past will be experiencing it now," said Michele Blackman, owner of Shelby Wellness and Therapy Center. "If you think about who already had things they were struggling with, they are now stuck at home with people they were struggling with or if they had substance abuse they can't go to their program regularly."
Opening up online
The center, which regularly sees around 500 visitors a month, recently moved all of its individual and family therapy sessions to a teleconference style, allowing people to still schedule appointments with their therapists and meet with them remotely. To make access easier for patients, the center also redid its website so appointments can be scheduled and therapists can be contacted by simply clicking on a picture.
"For some of our elderly or older patients who don't have internet or even a smart phone, we have been making phone calls," said Blackman.
The transition to a remote service model has largely been successful so far, she added, as only a few regular patients have declined to try the new model.
For therapists working with teenagers and young adults, the move to online has actually worked better than expected.
"I have seen a lot of success with my young people. My early 20s and teenagers have been very receptive and sharing events that have affected them," said Mary Elder, clinical director at Shelby Wellness and Therapy. "It was shocking at first but that is their world, that is where they are comfortable. It has been amazing to get some of these kids to recognize some things they never recognized before or shared with me before. They are being more open."
Online support groups
In an effort to help those stuck at home or dealing with substance abuse issues, the center announced this week it will be launching a series of online support groups.
During times like a national emergency, Elder said support groups can be a reliable way for people to process some of the trauma or frustrations they are dealing with in a positive way.
"They help you not to feel alone. We go through things thinking we are all on our own or there is no one dealing with what we are, and in reality there are hundreds if not thousands of people going through the same things. Together we can find ways to help each other," she said.
The groups, at least to start, will focus on coping with substance abuse, coping with stress and anxiety within the family and support for medical professionals.
Using the free teleconferencing platform Zoom, groups will meet once a week for up to 90 minutes to discuss problems and strategies for dealing with various issues. The sessions will be led by a therapist and are free to attend.
"All of these are free, and we can add more days and times if we need to," said Blackman.
Various groups offered
The first of the groups, a medical professional support group, will meet every Friday starting this week from 3:30-5 p.m. The group is open to all medical professionals currently working in the field as well as those currently out of work while some medical services are suspended for the duration of the national emergency.
Starting this weekend, the group for coping with stress and anxiety within the family will meet Saturdays from 1-2 p.m. It is open to anyone aged 16 or older.
Starting Monday, a substance abuse coping group will meet from 1-2:30 p.m. It is open to anyone currently struggling with addiction or in recovery from substance abuse.
"People that have been in recovery, just the increase in anxiety right now, they are at a high risk of relapse. It could be really helpful for them to attend sessions like this," said Blackman.
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