'Virtual Counseling' easing minds during the COVID-19 pandemic
The emotional and psychic pain resulting from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which is experienced by many people, is not to be underestimated. Just when folks need more than ever to talk with someone about how they are feeling – being isolated, or quarantined – it is not possible to meet in person with a counselor, simply because of the demands of physical distancing.
One local psychologist, working from his Eastmoreland home, is Nick Kreofsky, who is holding "virtual online sessions" with clients. He has worked in counseling for forty years, both at Kaiser and in the Providence medical system.
"Most of the people I've seen [during my recent practice] have had some physical disability (Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, other physical challenges), as well as challenging life transitions," he tells THE BEE in an e-mail. "This current situation has increased their stress, because often they have limited access to or physical contact with family members, and with the significant others who love them and provide comfort."
Kreofsky says that using "virtual" technology for counseling is helpful, allowing clients to communicate face-to-face online. But, he says, "For me the virtual therapy is both more challenging (that is, it requires greater concentration), and is also less intimate. It provides more opportunity for distraction and less sensitive perceptual acuity."
He is grateful, though, that there is the opportunity to give clients much-needed reassurance and encouragement during this difficult time, even though it is via an online session.
Another therapist, Chelsea Mier, counsels children (of all ages, including teens) and families from her office at S.E. Duke and 65th Avenue. Her practice, "Bridges Child and Family Therapy", has been situated in the large blue "Portland Insight Meditation Center" building on Duke Street for three years.
At this time, because of physical distancing required right now, Mier holds virtual appointments using the telehealth program "Simple Practice" – which is a form of "Zoom" that is HIPPA compliant. It offers secure audio and video for both patients and doctors.
"I am surprised how most folks want to continue to participate [face-to-face] online. It took families a couple of weeks to find stability and routines before contacting me again. It is such a shock for parents to do so much work at home, while managing three things at once – home schooling, parenting, and working from home!"
Mier adds that now, after some time adjusting, families are getting a grip on what they can afford. Because of some people's difficult finances during this time, she has begun charging on a sliding scale. She takes just a few appointments each day, Monday through Friday, so she can concentrate on being fully present for her clients while not becoming overloaded. She adds that, of course, there is always paperwork to take care of, too. She says sometimes there are technology challenges with virtual counseling sessions, but overall she is very pleased with how it is working. "Surprisingly, even very young kids like 'virtual' sessions. It is less of a burden to do it at home, in a space where people feel comfortable. And kids like to share their [home] space with me."
As strange as it may have seemed at first, it is apparent that the virtual world of the Internet can provide a lifeline for many people. We are discovering that there are lessons learned, and silver linings arising, from our experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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