Mental health providers are seeing appointment cancellations, but also new clients during the anxiety-provoking time of COVID-19.
To respond, therapists have been offering virtual services. It takes adaptation for those giving the services as well as clients who must get creative in finding the privacy to air their feelings.
“Some people are canceling and waiting until it’s over. Some are home with kids and it’s hard to find a quiet place to talk. Some people are doing sessions in their cars,” said Stephanie Knueppel, psychotherapist and owner of Stateline Mental Health Services, 540 E. Grand Ave., Beloit. “There’s a lot of anxiety about how long this is going to last, when people can get back to work and if the jobs will be there when it’s over.”
To deal with increasing needs, Stateline Mental Health Services has moved its 14 therapists and eight support staff mostly online. Therapists are using a HIPPA compliant software, VSee messenger.
“Our middle schoolers and high schoolers are loving it. They are so used to technology, they are not even blinking,” Knueppel said.
However, parents and young children are more of a challenge to serve. Therapists attempt online activities with kids and encourage parents to go easy on themselves as they attempt to do homeschooling, according to Psychotherapist and Office Supervisor Samantha Ball.
To help address needs and people’s ability to pay, Stateline Mental Health Services is trying to reduce rates for those most in need.
Providers also are trying to emphasize to younger people the necessity of staying safe by social distancing, especially if they aren’t listening to their parents.
Knueppel said people can best cope with the situation by focusing on the present and what can be controlled today.
“Don’t worry about something that isn’t there today. We can worry ourselves into chaos right now,” Knueppel said.
Knueppel encourages people to use resources such as virtual chatting with others for as much safe interaction as possible. She encourages kids and adults to use the time to learn something new, whether taking a keyboarding course online or perhaps learning to play an instrument or organizing their rooms while listening to music.
She encourages couples to find time for their own individual pursuits, such as reading a book or working out.
Jamie Wagner, program administrator/owner of HOPE-Child and Family Counseling, 11147 Second St., Roscoe, said her practice also has seen some new clients via teletherapy. For those not comfortable with face-to-face communication, there is an online chat function.
“The first week we closed, about a fourth of clients took advantage of teletherapy, and now about a third to a half of our clients are using it,” Wagner said.
The new online format continues to be challenging, although workable.
“Some teens have opted to do chatting as opposed to video as they are worried someone else in the home will hear them. Other families might have someone wear headphones so their family member can get private therapy,” Wagner said.
Those administering teletherapy, Wagner said, must ensure they have a private office space with a locking door.
“Counselors must be professionally dressed and have a private room so other family members won’t hear what they are saying. We want to make sure to respect confidentiality,” Wagner said. “A lot of therapists wait until after their kids are in bed or their significant others can watch their kids while they go to room for therapy.”
Wagner said therapists are working to teach parents how to regulate themselves better so they can regulate their kids as well as promote activities which result in laughter and connection.
To help those financially struggling, HOPE has offered to waive fees for those who typically see interns.
It’s also offering two free books clubs such as Kid’s Book Club. The first book is “Guts” by Raina Telgemeier. Kids’s Book Club will be held on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. A free adult book club is held online on Mondays at 8 p.m.
HOPE is also offering online services for a fee such as Yoga and Mental Health held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. for three weeks, and Therapeutic Art Therapy Group on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. for three weeks.
HOPE’s licensed clinical professional counselor and certified yoga teacher Marissa Ebert said she’s created a 6-part series called Yoga to Release which incorporates therapeutic techniques to reduce stress and anxiety associated with fear of the unknown. It’s open to people of all fitness levels.
More than two-thirds of HOPE’s clients are under age 12 as well as a sizable teen population.