Coping with Uncertainty and Anxiety During the Coronavirus Crisis

Avital Fridman

The coronavirus crisis has shifted, and continues to shift, the ground beneath our feet. The effects are wide-ranging, changing reality as we used to know it and the current world order.

Addiction therapists and treatment providers, who are used to helping and supporting others, may suddenly find themselves in a vulnerable position, struggling with economic and professional uncertainty, and dealing with family challenges that arise from home quarantine.

From a financial standpoint, many mental health professionals find themselves on unstable ground: treatment sessions cannot be held in their usual format, and some patients prefer to not continue treatment online. Many patients are suffering financially due to the crisis, and may consider the extra expense of therapy a luxury that they cannot afford at this time. Moreover, therapists trying to work from home are not always able to secure the private conditions necessary for therapy sessions, which can also lead to a reduced workload.

The decrease in the number of private patients, compounded by a reduction in the scope of public sector work, means that many therapists are increasingly financially dependent on their remaining patients. This upends what was a familiar and safe balance between therapist and patient.

Mental healthcare providers also face new professional challenges, including working in unfamiliar distance settings; disconnection from colleagues, who are often a major support system; and undergoing training and mentoring through screens. In terms of family life at home, many therapists also need to care for children and monitor their daily tasks, support their partners, complete household chores, and create new routines for all household members.

Taken together, this can create heavy emotional and functional burdens, and lead to feelings of helplessness, stress and depression.

So what can be done? How can we cope with this new and complex reality?

Most therapists already understand the importance of protecting themselves from the difficult content that they encounter at work, in order to prevent the development of secondary traumas. Similarly, they must develop self-care strategies in order to maintain their mental health and personal and professional conduct during this difficult time.

Self-care includes three main components: awareness, balance, and connection with others. It is important to pay attention to all three components, on both the personal and professional levels.

Personal level: Awareness of emotions and moods, and understanding that this period brings many challenges and stresses. Creating a balance between the things you have to do and the things you want to do; maintaining quality sleep, a balanced diet and exercise. Keeping up close connections with friends, colleagues and family members, and maintaining open communication lines with partners and other close people.

Professional level: Awareness of the anxiety and difficulties that the current circumstances generate, but also of the new opportunities that may arise. Balance between understanding the needs of patients and the workplace and accepting logistical and personal limitations. Staying connected with peers, superiors and mentors.

These times compel us to find ways to “re-charge,” both emotionally and physically. Each and every one of us must find the things and people who can help us re-charge.

Lastly, it is important to remember that, despite the reduction in the scope of work and change in format, mental healthcare providers are an important source of support for people suffering from addiction. They help alleviate their patients’ emotional burdens and improve their functioning, especially nowadays, when all dimensions of life are being disrupted. The satisfaction of showing another person compassion (compassion satisfaction) and the ability to help are themselves protective factors for therapists’ mental health.

  • Due to the enormous distress that the coronavirus crisis is inflicting on mental health professionals (as well as patients), the Israel Center on Addiction has launched a dedicated hotline for mental health professionals who treat people with addiction.

We invite you to call and consult with us:

Sunday through Thursday, 2pm to 4 pm, at 054-2012077.

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