Coping with a global pandemic has been new territory for all of us. The unknown is scary. Change is hard. To preserve public health, we’ve made drastic changes to work and daily life. And now—as we’ve learned to adapt –we are asked to change our behavior again. Therapists say all this can take a toll on our mental health. In these stressful times, KLCC’s Tiffany Eckert discovered, there is help out there.
Pre, mid and post pandemic. It’s a sort of timeline some mental health professionals now consider when treating people.
For example, before anyone had ever heard of novel coronavirus—clients would come to the Community Counseling Center in Eugene to talk about problems like…
“…relationship issues, difficulty with work, difficulty sleeping, weight or body image body issues, past trauma.”
When the global health threat became a local reality, Clinical Program Manager Nasim Talebreza-May says therapists noticed some client’s symptoms worsened and many requested more therapy.
“We have about a hundred clients that we see during the year,” Talebreza-May said, “and those numbers have definitely gone up as we’ve gone into this period of social distancing and the fears and anxiety around the COVID-19.”
Sitting with a therapist to talk about your feelings may seem like a luxury to some. But Talebreza-May says the Community Counseling Center was founded on the belief that therapy should be accessible to all.
“We are there for those who can’t afford their co-pays or their deductibles,” she said, “or they’re just not able to have insurance for whatever reason.”
The non-profit has been seeing clients out of the same building (nestled in the parking lot of Saint Thomas Episcopal Church) on Coburg Road for 42 years. They operate on a sliding fee scale. Sometimes, Talebreza-May says they don’t charge anything for services.
“All of our therapists are volunteers. And so you’re getting a therapist is out in the community who is licensed or under supervision and dedicating a few more hours of their precious time and resources to providing this service to our community.”
Licensed psychotherapist Patricia Hasbach splits her time between a private practice and volunteering at the CCC. She is also Board President.
She’s seen the shifts in mental health over the last months.
“Probably the most common emotion I’m seeing in my practice, related to the pandemic, is anxiety,” she said.
Now conducting therapy sessions via telehealth and online, Hasbach says her clients talk about fears for their physical health and just staying above water.
“Financial concerns, particularly if they haven’t been able to work. And for folks who have been able to work,” said Hasbach, “they’ve had to make the transition to working from home. For some, it’s been challenging with technology systems and role overload and juggling work and kids and home schooling.”
Hasbach is concerned about another mental health threat on the rise.
“When we feel out of control of our lives -depression can really surface,” she said.
In counseling, Hasbach suggests coping strategies like deep breathing, getting out in nature and limiting COVID-19 news consumption.
Those who do catch the news hear about Oregon’s plans to re-open and loosen social restrictions. After months of isolating and distancing—things are going to change again. Talebreza-May likens the process to going to war.
“So here we are all soldiers, all doing our part trying to flatten the curve,” she said. “We stayed home, we sang from the balconies, we sewed masks, and did all these courageous things and we changed our lives around. And we rode the adrenaline for a long time and now the order is lifted.”
Talebreza-May says therapists wonder what this may look like from a mental health standpoint.
“Because a lot of times you don’t have the trauma of war until you come home.”
Post-pandemic life is on Hasbach’s mind too. But she warns against thinking that things will go back to ‘normal’ any time soon.
“I attended a webinar conducted by Science Magazine last week and one of the speakers paraphrased a great quote by (Winston) Churchill: ‘We are at the end of the beginning.’”
Wherever we are in this pandemic, Hasbach wants folks to know mental health professionals are there to help, even if virtually for now. She encourages us to seek support because-- everyone deserves someone to talk to.
For information on therapy options or how to volunteer at Community Counseling Center: https://www.ccceugene.org/