mental health 021320

Licensed clinical social workers Nikiki Stovall and Sarah Nitz believe it’s always a good time to start taking care of your mental health. 

Licensed clinical social workers Nikiki Stovall and Sarah Nitz believe it’s always a good time to start taking care of your mental health, especially during a time of social distancing and self-isolation.

During this time, the normal barriers that people have with therapy are taken away because everyone is in their own home, Stovall said, who works with Your Therapist Counseling Services. People can now seek therapy from the privacy of their home.

Stovall and Nitz, licensed clinical social workers in Athens, have shared their recommendations for mental health best practices and resources to finding the right therapist.

Finding clinicians, trying out telehealth

In light of the pandemic, mental health professionals are offering reduced rates for telehealth, a remote form of health care services exchanged over the phone or computer. Many clinicians provide free consultations, so people can contact as many as they need to find the right fit, Nitz said.

“Athens has an incredible network of therapists,” said Nitz, a licensed clinical social worker at the Divorce Resource Center of Georgia.

Psychology Today, an online news publication and directory of counselors and therapists, is also a great resource for people to use because it allows people to find professionals in their area that aligns with their preferences, Nitz said.

“It can be overwhelming searching for the best fit, but there are bios listed for each professional and information you can read about each one so I think that would be the best route,” Nitz said.

Teletherapy may cause people to change how they’re communicating with their therapists, Stovall said.

Some people worry about coming into an office and being seen by others. They worry about what other people think of them and feel embarrassed, Stovall said.

“With telehealth, one of the things that I secure with my patients is that they will be in a secure location where our conversation can’t be heard or interpreted,” Stovall said.

Whether patients are talking in their car or sitting in their bathtub, those may be the most secure or private places for them, Stovall said.

Sometimes after taking greater lengths to find a private place, someone may not have a secure location and still want to seek therapy. Stovall said that there are other resources online that people can turn to, such as podcasts and YouTube videos, “resources that could help someone help themselves as much as possible.” Stovall also recommends journaling.

“We don’t normally gravitate towards things that are going to hurt us. Thinking about problems and things that make you anxious is not something that people readily do,” Stovall said. “One of the best ways to get out of that is to journal.”

Even for those who don’t like writing, Stovall said that she recommends to her clients that are adverse to writing to use a voice recorder app on their phone and use that as their journal.

Helping those who help others

When the pandemic started, Nitz and other professionals started thinking about what they could do for healthcare workers on the frontline. Several licensed therapists and clinicians in Athens have volunteered to provide services for them, Nitz said.

Nitz then began aggregating a list of therapists and clinicians specifically wanting to help healthcare workers during this time.

“A lot of the professionals on the list were already full with clients but were willing to make room for healthcare workers. Some are also offering really low rates for people affected by this,” Nitz said.

After compiling the list, Nitz sent the list to the human resource departments at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center and St. Mary’s Hospital. The list can be accessed below.

Nitz and other professionals want to help healthcare workers as much as they can because of the great lengths they are taking to help the Athens community, she said.

When businesses reopen

On April 20, Gov. Brian Kemp announced some businesses, such as gyms, hair salons and massage therapy businesses, can elect to reopen on Friday, April 24. As these businesses begin reopening, Stovall recommends people remain considerate of themselves and others if they decide to go outside.

“There is going to be a rush for people to go outside, to go shopping and out to eat. People wanting to be around family and friends and I think there’s going to be a culture shock,” Stovall said.

Coming from a military background, Stovall said being released from staying inside is similar to being released from being institutionalized. The thought of people coming out of this pandemic reminds Stovall of when she came back from serving overseas.

“The urge is going to be there to go out and do everything at once, but take it slow and listen to your body,” Stovall said. “If you go out and you have sensory overload, or feel a twinge of anxiety, then you should go back home, regroup and reset.”

Stovall said she recommends trying again another day, a different time of the day or a different place, but, most importantly, “ease into it and listen to your body.”

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