Clinic offers free COVID-19 counselling as many struggle to cope with isolation, uncertainty
Published Monday, March 30, 2020 5:06PM PDT
A condo is seen with a string of lights in the shape of a heart in Vancouver, B.C. Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VANCOUVER -- A counselling clinic in downtown Vancouver is hosting free support groups for people who are struggling to adjust to the realities of life under COVID-19.
Peak Resilience launched the online sessions last week, letting participants keep their physical distance from each other while discussing the different ways living through a pandemic is affecting them.
"There's uncertainty, fear, substance abuse, food struggles, relationship struggles, feelings of being overwhelmed, or all of the above," said clinic owner Jennifer Hollinshead.
Struggling to cope with uncertainty is one of the most common themes to emerge so far, Hollinshead said. No one knows how the COVID-19 crisis will play out, and countless Canadians are facing job losses and financial instability in the meantime.
Hollinshead recommends people address those particular feelings in two ways: First, by sharing them out loud with someone who can relate, and second, through a process she calls "creating your own certainty." That means focussing on things people can still control during these strange times.
"For example, maybe I don't know how I'm paying my rent. I don't know when the government's going to pay me, and I'm terrified," Hollinshead said. "I don't know what's going to happen, but for the next hour I'm going to set my timer and I'm going to research online what my options are then I'm going to take a break and have a snack."
Breaking problems down into manageable tasks is a useful tool when situations feel overwhelming, Hollinshead said, as is sharing them with another person.
"The biggest benefit that people said came from the group was connecting and hearing other human beings say they were feeling the same way," she added.
Her clinic is still operating during the crisis, with her team of counsellors working remotely, but business has slowed a bit as regular clients adjust to their new circumstances.
But with people cooped up at home with significant others, Hollinshead said one focus with no shortage of demand is couple's counselling. While some couples are managing to get through their forced isolation without putting much strain on their relationship, Hollinshead said others are increasingly butting heads.
"That's where couple's counselling can create more boundaries and safety and more ways of communicating and problem-solving," she added.
Hollinshead said members of her team decided to set up the free group support sessions as a way to fill up the gaps in their schedules and give back to the community during the COVID-19 crisis. She encouraged people who are struggling to reach out and take part.
"For people who are feeling really isolated, there are things happening online where you can feel some semblance of connection to other people and get support and hopefully enjoy your quiet time and a slower world right now," she said.