Strong Mental Health is So Important During a Pandemic

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS

Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services, NESCA

In March, 2020, a poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association found that more than a third of all Americans (36%) stated that Covid-19 is having a serious impact on their mental health; 59% said it is a having a major impact on their daily lives; 48% are anxious about contracting Covid-19; 62% are anxious about a loved one becoming ill; and 68% feel it will have a serious impact on our economy. Needless to say, we are living in an unprecedented time due to Covid-19, and it will have a serious impact on people’s mental and physical health both now and for some time. It has created stress, anxiety and depression even as we are learning to cope and adjust to this current new normal.

Given these numbers, many adults, teens and children are struggling with a myriad of challenges, stressors and losses during this pandemic (i.e. missing graduations, births, food insecurity and financial insecurities, including job losses, etc.). Deciding how to alleviate the pain and suffering can be daunting. Psychological, medical/psychopharmacological, complementary (i.e. acupuncture), behavioral and educational treatments are possible choices and can assist in alleviating some pain and suffering. What better time than now to get yourself and your loved ones some mental health support?

This blog will review a variety of treatment approaches which are now being offered through telehealth. There are many HIPAA-protected platforms that clinicians are using to meet their client’s needs as well as some “wearables” to assist in treatment. Wearables transmit your biophysiological data to your clinician so s/he may use it in conjunction with and/or inform treatment.

Mental health treatments include many different types: psychotherapy (also known as “talk therapy” or “insight-based therapy”), psychoeducational, biofeedback, social training, mindfulness/relaxation and so many more. Approaches to psychological treatment may include individual, group, family or couples work, and there is no one single approach that works for everyone. Psychological treatment is typically provided by a licensed psychologist, social worker, mental health counselor, expressive therapist, psychiatrist and/or psychiatric nurse.  Many factors go into making psychological treatment decisions, but when it comes to therapy it is most important to have “goodness of fit” between the clinician and the client. The client needs to “get along with” and feel valued, supported and understood by their practitioner. This enhances the effectiveness of whatever treatment approach or method is utilized.

Reviewing the differences between treatment approaches may help you in your decision- making process beyond “the goodness of fit.” Psychotherapy involves talking with a clinician to address emotional, psychological and behavioral challenges that can be both conscious and unconscious. The client’s past experiences, perceptions and history play an important role in psychotherapy. The client “tells their story,” which helps the clinician understand their life experiences through their eyes, which allows treatment to be tailored to their experiences. By working through one’s thoughts, past experiences and stressors with a caring clinician, the client is able to gain insight, perspective and strategies to alleviate pain and suffering and manage unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. The aim is to help the client understand their past and to recognize its influence on their current situation. Often psychotherapy is long- term and involves good communication/language skills as well as higher level thinking and insight capacity. However, psychotherapy can also be short-term and specifically focused on the thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with Covid-19 and its impact on a person’s life.

Psychoeducational treatment is somewhat different than psychotherapy. Psychoeducational treatment can be provided to individuals, groups, family member, couples, employers and others. Education is central to treatment, and it is a more directive approach. It can have very specific goals and may be short-term. The past is not actively addressed; the purpose is to educate the client to acknowledge, accept and understand their disability and/or mental health condition and provide ways to support growth, change and meet goals. Psychoeducational treatment may include informative reading material, video analysis, homework, data collection, biofeedback, journal writing and much more.

Some of the goals of both treatment approaches are to connect how thoughts, feelings and behavior are connected, improve coping and problem solving to better deal with life stressors, increase positive self-regard, and to recognize and better deal with strong emotions. Many clinicians have training in specific techniques and use a combination of approaches in their practice. Yet, sometimes a specific approach may be the best method of choice given a specific condition or specific goal of treatment. For example, Covid-19 is having a mental health impact on many people, and seeking short-term treatment may be warranted.

When seeking treatment, determining what technique is most appropriate can be accomplished by considering a variety of areas: the reason/goal of treatment, age and diagnosis of the client, the personality, cognitive and language capacity of the client as well as the cultural/family background and personal experiences. There are upwards of 100 different types of psychotherapeutic approaches, so knowing which one to try is an important decision. Many clients at NESCA present with learning differences, anxiety, OCD, depression, trauma, substance abuse and more. The following partial list includes some of the treatment approaches beneficial to and used by many NESCA clients.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Attachment-based Therapy

Animal-assisted Therapy

Biofeedback

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Exposure & Response Prevention Therapy

Expressive Therapy (Art, music, drama, etc.)

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy

Motivational Interviewing

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy

Play Therapy

Psychoeducational Counseling

Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

At NESCA, we are currently offering short-term psychological treatment for Covid-19 mental health challenges as well as long-term psychoeducational treatment. If you are interested in learning about these options, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/integrativetherapeutic/.

More information about treatment approaches can be found at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/types-of-therapy

 

References:

https://www.nami.org/learn-more/treatment/psychotherapy

https://www.mhanational.org

https://www.mentalhealth.gov

https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/news-releases/new-poll-covid-19-impacting-mental-well-being-americans-feeling-anxious-especially-for-loved-ones-older-adults-are-less-anxious

 

About the Author

NESCA’s Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services Dot Lucci has been active in the fields of education, psychology, research and academia for over 30 years. She is a national consultant and speaker on program design and the inclusion of children and adolescents with special needs, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Lucci was the Principal of the Partners Program/EDCO Collaborative and previously the Program Director and Director of Consultation at MGH/Aspire for 13 years, where she built child, teen and young adult programs and established the 3-Ss (self-awareness, social competency and stress management) as the programming backbone. She also served as director of the Autism Support Center. Ms. Lucci was previously an elementary classroom teacher, special educator, researcher, school psychologist, college professor and director of public schools, a private special education school and an education collaborative.

Ms. Lucci directs NESCA’s consultation services to public and private schools, colleges and universities, businesses and community agencies. She also provides psychoeducational counseling directly to students and parents. Ms. Lucci’s clinical interests include mind-body practices, positive psychology, and the use of technology and biofeedback devices in the instruction of social and emotional learning, especially as they apply to neurodiverse individuals.

 

To book a consultation with Ms. Lucci or one of our many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician/consultant in the referral line.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.