How COVID-19 Has Affected Me as a Mental Health Professional
In one way or another, COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s lives.
It’s no surprise the pandemic has triggered a wave of mental health issues. Whether it’s dealing with anxiety, depression, social isolation or just the general stress that has resulted from COVID-19, we’re definitely all feeling something.
I am a mental health professional with over 35 years of experience, dealing with all forms of mental health care — yet, I am no different.
When New York shut down all non-essential offices in March, life became very different for me. It was challenging. My practice was considered an essential business; therefore, we needed to stay open.
My primary consideration for the past nine months has been to keep my staff and our clients safe. It’s kept me up at nights, trying to work out a schedule that will allow as many employees as possible to work from home, while still manning the office for essential in-person scheduling.
I decided to change the office hours to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with online counseling offering a wider range of appointment hours. I reflect on how lucky we were that we had already introduced online counseling to our range of services, so we were already set up technically, we just needed to demonstrate to our clients online counseling was as effective as in-person. Most people were relieved they could continue with their therapist from the safety of their own home, but some still needed in-office services.
I am the only clinician to remain on-site every day to assist with clinical consultations, review new admissions and supervise my staff. I am constantly doing crisis interventions with new and existing clients, and I have been, and will continue to, work seven days a week until the pandemic is over.
We actioned strict Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, yet I found myself constantly worrying if the support staff at the office was safe, while managing the emotional stress of home and work life. I encouraged self-care, I bought them lunch, made sure they had enough supplies and assisted them with their anxiety.
The anxiety level among our clients and the general population imploded. Existing appointments continued and the requests for new appointment increased like never before. We had also made the decision to expand our practice to the five boroughs. There are so many people who need help, but most local private practices closed their doors. I leaned on my management team to keeps things running as smoothly as possible, and our intake team to help communicate and facilitate appointments via our secure online platform.
I also needed to support our therapists who were working remotely, helping them emotionally and supporting them professionally with issues they were experiencing with their clients.
I was taking care of everyone around me, but I also had to take care of myself. I had to remind myself I am in a high-risk demographic for COVID-19, having asthma and high blood pressure. So, it was imperative I protect myself from getting sick so I could take care of those around me. I became extremely proactive, making sure that I, and all my staff, followed the rules. Wearing a face mask, staying six feet apart. Constantly sanitizing, not touching my face. But most importantly, making sure I was eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep.
On a personal note, my daughter is in her last year of college, and my anxiety about her safety and her anxiety about my safety skyrocketed. Thankfully, her college is doing classes online, but she still lives on campus. Like many during this pandemic, she adopted a cat. My job as a mother is to make her feel safe and help her through this difficult time.
2020 has been a challenging year for most, but I know I am one of the lucky ones. My family, my staff and I are currently safe and well. We are looking forward to Christmas and the New Year. So many people around the world are not so lucky, our thoughts are with them in this festive season. We will continue to serve our community as best we can, staying safe and encouraging others to do the same.
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