Counseling During the Pandemic

Counseling During the Pandemic

by: Betty Kola, PhD, LIMHP, CPC, PLADC

Counseling services had to undergo a systemic shift to cope with the unparalleled complications of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Counselors were tasked with providing therapeutic support to clients while simultaneously attempting to keep counselors, clients, and staff safe from the virus. During the initial closures, everyone looked to the CDC and other government agencies for directives on how to safely provide services (Bell et al, 2021;2020). 

In the wake of widespread closures and shutdowns of government-deemed non-essential services, counseling moved their services online in the form of telemental health. By shifting to virtual rather than in-person meetings, counselors were able to resume providing mental health services to their clients who had  access to the necessary technology platforms. With the shift to virtual therapy came new problems, such as the client’s ability to access services, the impact of the new format on client-counselor relationships, and the ability to ensure client confidentiality while in session. With an overabundance of inaccurate information, people struggled  to find reliable and trustworthy sources of information. The misinformation being shared on social media made it much harder for people to access trustworthy recommendations. This led to an increased resistance in some client populations and increased risk of clients and family members contracting Covid  (Bell et al, 2021;2020). 

This misinformation, along with the rise in hate crimes, has led to increased stress in marginalized clients. This negatively impacts marginalized clients’ health and well-being at the individual, family, and community level. Other stressors throughout the pandemic included providing an online learning environment for their children, navigating the required internet services, and lack of funds or resources (Bell et al, 2021;2020).

The pandemic, along with prolonged uncertainty, challenged many clients’ spiritual belief systems. Clients may have wanted to address these feelings in their sessions to seek a stronger meaning in their beliefs. These increased feelings of spiritual isolation, existential dread, lack of support, and fear of catching the virus may have exacerbated the client’s symptoms of anxiety, depression, and social phobia.