In order to combat the stresses and mental strains of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Affordable Counseling Collaborative Associates is offering online, affordable therapy to residents throughout the state of Texas.
Tracy Morris, a therapist and a founder of ACCA, said the group is a collaboration between seven therapists in the Greater Houston area who have similar techniques.
“We’re not an agency. ... We’re not a nonprofit,” Morris said. “We’re a group of people who were trained similarly to work together with clients in a similar fashion.”
Morris said she formed the group about three years ago to collaborate with therapists she was referring patients to. She said most of the therapists in the association were trained at Our Lady of the Lake University, which uses a style of training called collaborative dialogical approach. This approach is about working closely with clients by viewing them as the expert of their own lives.
“We don’t come at them like, ‘We’re gonna tell you how to live your life,’” Morris said. “It’s far more about helping them find the strength even when they feel like they don’t have any.”
All ACCA therapists have online appointments and, in response to the outbreak, have created a virtual walk-in clinic that allows clients to pay what they can. When a client books an appointment, Morris said the association works to create a fee based on their household income.
“And then if that fee is still not workable for them, we’ll continue to work with them; we’ll work with them to negotiate a fee that they can afford,” Morris said.
Therapist Victoria Templeton is a member of ACCA and said she has seen a definite uptick in clients throughout the outbreak, as well as organizations reaching out to provide services to the people they serve.
Templeton said the heightened anxiety of the outbreak in addition to the stress of being quarantined creates a problematic environment for mental health.
“You also have the people who don’t necessarily have mental health issues but they’re now experiencing the same things, a lot of unknowns, a lot of uncertainties,” Templeton said.
As the outbreak continues, Morris said everyone has been feeling “heightened anxiety,” even if their situation is stable or they are healthy. She said clients who have issues outside of the outbreak have also seen higher stress.
“They feel like everybody’s got enough on their plate, and so they feel like they don’t have the right to bend the ears of neighbors or friends or family,” Morris said.
Specializing in family and child therapy, Templeton said this time of distance learning can be hard both for adolescents and parents, when adolescents no longer have the social interactions they need and parents no longer have a regular schedule and both are forced into the same space.
“Where I come in is I really enjoy helping teens and parents learn to have those conversations, what boundaries look like, not just for the parent but for the teen,” Templeton said.
For families dealing with stress, Templeton suggested creating space for private time is important, especially when so much family time is forced. She also said families can turn to fun activities to try to make family time positive.