Demand for counseling increases due to pandemic

For Athol Daily News
Published: 5/26/2020 2:36:55 PM
Modified: 5/26/2020 2:36:53 PM

By GREG VINE

ATHOL – As the demand for medical services across the globe has increased since the start of the novel cononavirus pandemic, so has it been for mental health services — and the Athol region is no exception.

Barbara Doyle, clinic director of outpatient services for Clinical and Support Options, Inc., told the Athol Daily News, “The general trend has been that there’s definitely an increased number of new referrals for services for various programs the longer the pandemic lasts. So, that really means to me that the stress people feel due to circumstances and difficulties that come with this pandemic really make it harder and harder for people to tolerate and cope with.”

Doyle said the issues that become problematic depends on each individual; there is no single problem that arises more than others.

“I think there’s a variety of probably three or four issues that really seem to be the main reasons that people seek services,” she said. “For example, job loss and the financial and other stresses related to that. Especially for families with school-age kids, there’s stress related to managing remote learning and parents having to manage both family life and school life at home.

“Another big reason for referrals is fear related to re-opening and things coming back on line; fears of leaving the house, fear of how things may be different upon returning to work, how to adjust to the new environment, fear of a greater chance of exposure to the virus.”

Her office hasn’t seen an increase in demand for CSO services as a result of verbal or physical domestic abuse. Doyle said, however, agencies providing crisis services for more acute incidents may be receiving an increase in calls for assistance.

Doyle said the nature of services provided by her and her staff have also seen changes in the face of the pandemic.

“This is tricky now,” she said, “because everybody works from home. We have been doing telehealth since March 16. We quickly adjusted to working vie telehealth and remotely. The majority of clinicians adjusted really well. I think the comfort of working from home in a safe environment, where they felt safe, really made for a quick transition.

“I have a number of clients say they were really appreciative that we were continuing to provide services throughout the change,” she said. “’Normal’ was just disappearing, but being able to continue to provide all of our services during the change was really important. For some clients, our being here was the only steady thing, the only consistent thing in their lives.”

She added that remote supervision and training have continued for the staff.

“Our way of taking care of staff is really to provide ongoing supervision when we have a chance to check in, see how things are going, how the staff is doing, how clients are doing on their caseload. And we continue to do training that supports their remote work right now.”

She said a new program for staff, called “Helping the Helper,” will be offered next month.

Doyle said, generally speaking, “we advise clients to practice mindfulness, we teach them and we practice with them. The mindfulness technique really helps with grounding and being present in the moment. To be mindful of your surroundings, pay attention to what you hear, what you see. To be present in the moment really helps dealing with the heightened anxiety and fear people are feeling right now.”

Boyd said CSO continues to take referrals and anyone who feels in need of counseling and support services should contact them (978) 249-9490. Their office is located at 2033 Main St., Second Floor, Athol, in the new addition to the Athol Hospital campus.The Greenfield office is located at One Arch Place, First Floor and can be reached at (413) 774-1000.

In addition to Athol and Greenfield, Clinical and Support Options has offices in Gardner, Springfield, Northampton, and Pittsfield.


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