Mental Health Awareness Month – Different in the time of Covid-19

Mental Health Awareness Month, Photo: CDC

Three psychotherapists share their experiences and their photos as they support clients during the time of Covid-19.

May is designated Mental Health Awareness Month. As a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in Imago Relationship Therapy for that last 30 years, one might think I’d have known about the significance of May! (And, perhaps I did, and it has slipped into my subconscious) Interesting that it has come to my attention THIS May, in the midst of a worldwide Pandemic!

Marcia Ferstenfeld using Zoom for therapy

Mental Health is my business, right? 

Practicing as a therapist in this time of social distancing is a challenge to the state of my own mental health, even as my clients are challenged with trauma and stress of all descriptions, from the lack of connection to too much closeness, to financial concerns, to lack of toilet paper. My “office” has been in my home for the last 20 years. Now, my office is in the 14 inches of my MacBook Pro! 

Like so many, I am now perched in front of my computer most of every day for hours upon hours: for therapy sessions, meetings, family, organizational and even religious gatherings, and all of that in addition to the significant amounts of time I normally spend on other computer tasks. As a mental health professional, I see it as my quest to support the people I work with in building and strengthening their skills for dealing with the inevitable hardships and unexpected monkey wrenches of life, to help them expand the space within them that allows for managing the difficulties and fully embracing the joys of life. Under the best of circumstances, life, and relationships, my clients are dealing with all of the challenges I am trained to help them with AND are now burdened with the additional challenges involved in sheltering at home, working from home, not working, home schooling, the extraordinary stress placed on essential workers of all varieties, and so much more. At the same time, I am enjoying the unusual privilege of entering my clients’ homes via computer – and when small children are around, sometimes meeting with them in their basements, backyards or cars! 

Marcia Ferstenfeld’s usual therapy space

My clients need extra support to deal with the added hardships during this time in history: the need for some predictable connection, the experience of isolation and the yearning for hugs, social gatherings and even the simplest of interactive activities; so many losses to be grieved, from the loss of life, exacerbated by the heartbreak of loved ones dying without the comfort of family by their side, and funerals that have become virtual community happenings, to new life when grandparents are unable to meet their newest tiny offspring; planned travel and celebratory events cancelled with no idea of when or if they may be rescheduled, and perhaps the most daunting — dealing with the vastness of the unknown and unknowable aspects of our current circumstances. With all of that there is an understandable upsurge in anxiety, depression, and new incidents of domestic violence. As human beings, it is our nature to be in community and in connection, and this pandemic is asking us to navigate in relative isolation.

Washing hands, Photo: CDC

And, as a species, we adapt. We adapt in ways we might never have believed we could. In the midst of this imposed lock-down, many discover strengths not otherwise known – benefits like recognizing how many things we often take for granted, and pausing to experience gratitude. I also hear appreciation expressed as people savor the extended and unusual opportunities to be with young children and young adult children…family time rarely available in the hustle and bustle of what we have come to think of as ‘normal’, commuters enjoying the time they are saving by not traveling to and from offices, and those for whom being home and alone is comfortable expressing some relief at this sanctioned opportunity for more solitude! Our natural human resourcefulness and resilience is being tested and stimulated, and amazing creativity is being generated in the form of poetry, music, art, dance, play and in scientific advances. There is beauty in the air – a clarity and a quiet that is non-existent in ‘normal’ times. The sky is bluer and the waterways are cleaner. 

Meetings are virtual

The both/and of life is palpable and measurable with greater intensity. The Yin and Yang. And it is my fervent hope that SOME of what is being found under mandate, will be maintained and will become a greater part of human existence as we move into a new and different ‘normal’. At least it is a vision to contemplate that a greater balance might be attained. Balance – in the final analysis, isn’t that what defines mental health? 

So…Happy Mental Health Awareness Month to therapists, counselors, psychologist, social workers and patients, everywhere!!

Marcia Ferstenfeld, MA, CIRT, CI, is a certified Imago Relationship Therapist and a member of the Faculty of the Imago International Training Institute.  She brings expertise, intuition, warmth, humor and clarity to her work in supporting clients in achieving personal growth and deep, loving relationships and training therapists in Imago Relationship Therapy. http://www.marciaferstenfeld.com/

Laura Sacks Kohn

(A note from a therapist during these strange times)…

I sit with my clients, telephonically, or on Facetime; individuals or couples…and I wait for them to tell me about their lives, their struggles, their ups and their downs. These are their precious stories.

In many ways their lives are not so different from mine, especially the uncertainties of what’s ahead.  And for my lonely clients, in many ways this almost 70- year-old is much luckier, living with a partner who makes her life sing.

In some ways, their stories shake me to my core: will he have enough breath to finish our session? Is his flu, my flu (probably not).

As I wrap up my days, knowing that these sessions are different, I’m more exhausted, more spent.

And I think about my sweet clients who have graced my “door”. And I think about clients who have said that I was “sent” to them.

 And I know, I truly do, it is they, who have been sent to me.

Gratefully, 
Laura Sacks Kohn, M.A., LPC, C.I.R.T. – Laura Sacks Kohn is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a specialty in Imago Relationship Therapy and loves that things can always get better! 

Susie’s home/virtual office

                                                  

Certainty Versus Uncertainty (Variety)

As I reflect upon Mental Health Awareness Month, I am reminded of the concept of our 6 human needs (Tony Robbins). Two of these needs that are highlighted for me during these “quarantined” times are Certainty Versus Uncertainty. I believe that Telehealth sessions provide a sense of predictability during these unprecedented times of uncertainty. Being a constant for my clients is a mutual gift. Therapy provides a sense of knowing in the unknown, and a sense of being a lighthouse in a storm.  Therapy sessions provide structure and Certainty which is critical for a sense of connection and safety.  Telehealth may forever change how we do therapy. What will remain the same however, is that the therapeutic relationship is a gift regardless of ones need for Certainty or Variety and remains  unchanged regardless of location.  I am forever grateful to be on this essential and sacred journey with my clients!

Susie Kamen, LMSW, CIRT, SILC, is a Certified Imago Relationship therapist. She is the vice president of Imago Michigan and a Robbins-Madanes Strategic Intervention Life Coach and a Workshop Presenter. She helps people get out of their own way to create the life and relationships they desire.www.susiekamen.com

Unless otherwise noted, the photos were provided by the therapists.

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