Centers (formerly Centers for Children and Families) have provided counseling and mental health support for individuals and families for more than 60 years. In recent months, we have started conversations about expanding our services to include telehealth support. We know this is becoming a much more common practice, especially in large metropolitan areas, as well as some very rural, remote locations. We prefer to meet with clients in person and find that format to be most effective, but also understand technology, to some extent, is driving the field of counseling and mental health in a telehealth direction.

In March, the strategic, long-term goal of slowly introducing telehealth counseling options quickly turned into a short-term, immediate need. The coronavirus placed Centers in a position of needing to find an effective way of still meeting clients’ needs, while at the same time adhering to local, state and federal guidelines for distancing. Thanks to the efforts of many Centers’ staff, our agency counselors are all now working from home and are equipped to provide both phone and video conferencing for the families we serve.

Our lives are currently on hold, but the mental health and emotional needs of families are not. One of the things we know about stress is that we are statistically more likely to be drawn toward destructive behavior when under increased stress. Fragile areas in our lives tend to get exposed when under unusual amounts of stress. Calls to domestic violence crisis lines have increased nationwide.  For families or marriages where routine conflict already existed, you can be sure that the isolation and increased time together has not lessened that tension.

Some of the stress is really mere inconvenience. For example, I am ready to be able to eat at Carambas again. But there is real stress out there.  I am particularly concerned about those who struggle with depression and anxiety because so many of the things we are being asked to do to help stop the spread of the virus — increased time alone, lack of exposure to support systems such as friends and faith community and no access to hobbies that take you out of your home —  are the opposite of what you would recommend for someone struggling with a mood disorder.  Isolation and depression simply don’t mix.

The current worldwide health crisis most definitely qualifies as increased, unusual stress. There is the direct stress of being sick or having a family member who is ill. For most of us, however, the days, now weeks, of isolation are taking their toll on even the most introverted of personalities. The lack of close contact with extended family and friends, as well as the lack of contact with coworkers and our church homes, only exacerbate the stress.

There is no rhythm to life right now. How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ve lost all track of time and have no idea what day it is.” And how many people are struggling with being thrown into the role of homeschooling their children, feeling unprepared and wondering if there is enough patience to make it until the end of May? How many people are working from home and miss the camaraderie of the office or simply don’t feel nearly as efficient or productive.

And to make matters worse, we don’t know when the world might shift back toward normal. I watched the news the other night and heard dates ranging from this May to sometime in 2022 for when this whole thing would end. This highlights the truth about anxiety. Living in limbo is more stressful than knowing what’s coming next. Uncertainty about the future and anxiety don’t mix well.

Whether you consider your mental health needs great or small, we encourage you to call Centers and request a meeting with one of our counselors. Centers is taking new clients, and our counselors will be glad to meet with you through one of our telehealth options. Centers is also aware that the economy is creating additional stress on families. As a result, we will be waiving our $50 intake fee starting Monday and continuing through the end of May. Please reach out to one of our counselors and there will be no fee for your initial visit.

If you are interested in making an appointment, call the office at 570-1084. Our modified office hours are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. If you call outside of that time frame, please leave a message and we will return your call the next business day.