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Counseling Services offers telehealth, virtual outreaches to help cope with COVID-19 stress

Mental Health Awareness

Just a few months ago, it would have been unimaginable to find a world in which everyone was quarantined and businesses and schools were closed. The quarantine and social distancing measures, which medical experts have deemed critical to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 virus, have impacted nearly everyone. For students and faculty feeling the strains caused by prolonged quarantine, University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Cindy Cook, director of Counseling Services, said that the office remains accessible to clients via telehealth and other services.

“There is always stress in many different areas of people’s lives, but now there’s a lot of anxiety associated with adjusting to working from home, not knowing when things will get back to normal, juggling too many things in the same time and space with people, and having children at home needing attention,” Cook said. “There’s a lot of general anxiety and depression. People can no longer do what they would have done for self care, like connect with people or go to the gym or be with friends.”

She added that relationship concerns, as well as other family issues and anxiety about job security, especially for students, were currently of concern. “Students should know that we are answering calls in real time,” she said. “You can request an appointment via telehealth and we have an after-hours on-call crisis service if you need to talk to someone right now.”

Counseling Services is also offering a variety of virtual outreach workshops on topics such as resilience, coping skills and managing stress. “We have a group that meets nearly every day on Zoom,” she said. “The workshops are open to everyone, including faculty and staff, and the Zoom links are on our webpage. Outreach meetings are secured and led by our counseling staff, depending on their area of expertise.”

Licensed Master Social Worker Amber Tempel, a community resource specialist in Counseling Services, leads four virtual outreach groups focusing on stress management and other coping skills, while other therapists lead groups that discuss sleep hygiene, mindfulness, relaxation and stress management. “My weekly skills groups are titled Maintaining Mindfulness; Interpersonal Effectiveness; Emotion Regulation; and Distress Tolerance,” she said. “These modules are offered Monday through Friday.”

Tempel said that participants gain a sense of support and feel less isolated knowing they are not alone in the struggle they are facing. “They know this is a safe space to go to learn skills, and for others it is brand new information to learn and incorporate into their lives,” she said. “Participants are encouraged to attend all and as many times as they would like to get a better grasp of the content we’re discussing.”

Cook said that anyone who is experiencing stress but feels “locked in” should reach out. “There’s an app for students called WellTrack, and anyone with a UHCL email address can access it,” she said. “It’s got a mood tracker and other features that offer tips for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression, as well a resilience module that has lots of COVID-19 coping information,” she said. “We are strongly suggesting people do a lot of self-care, figure out what works, and if you’re still struggling, talk with one of us and we’ll help you process your feelings. I think our students are struggling, even if they’re not all coming to us. We are available and there is no wait time for an appointment.”

Anyone in the UHCL community can visit Counseling Services online and scroll down to see the list of all outreach groups offered with the times, dates, and Zoom links.