Dr. Magyar-Hill, a clinical psychologist, shares her experience with telehealth and offers advice for business leaders, parents and students. She explains the trends she is observing in different age groups and some “accidental blessings” as well as concerns.
Will you provide your title, and a brief overview of the role you serve?
MS, PsyD (Doctor in Clinical Psychology). My role is to support and identify what an individual’s needs are, and to help them become their healthiest self.
Will you describe your overall clientele you support?
Children, adults, couples, and families.
What changes have you seen in the request for your services, pre-Pandemic vs. present?
At first, I was concerned that I would no longer see many of my patients. What I quickly discovered, however, is that my regular patients desired to maintain the therapy relationship, albeit virtually. For many, keeping their appointments has provided individuals with a sense of stability, trust and calm, especially during a time of the unknown, which can be scary to some.
Beyond my regular patients, I have also had past patients reach out to me on a consistent basis to schedule telehealth sessions. The online sessions have worked well, especially when there has been a trusting relationship established from the past. For clients who are new referrals, I have noticed the follow through is not as great, as it is difficult to build a relationship with someone for the first time via virtual means.
What common themes have you experienced with your patients that you would attribute to our current state?
Anxiety, fear, and terror, especially for younger people. They will even plead and ask, “Can you just tell me when you think this will end?” There are also a lot of somatic complaints, as people are uncomfortable with the lack of routine and a fear of the unknown.
What is your greatest concern as a mental health professional for your patients and their wellbeing?
I find the concerns are different, depending on the audience.
Young adults (20-30)
For individuals in this age category, they grew up in a decade where social interaction quickly morphed into connectivity through virtual means. As children they were face to face with their friends, but as they merged into adulthood, the emphasis of their interaction became side by side. I believe that the pendulum could swing back for individuals in this age category as I see them desiring to become more socially interactive with a desire to connect in person more. This could be a favorable outcome.
Middle Age Adults
Those who have OCD or anxiety appear less anxious in that they feel the rest of the world has joined them in an anxious state, so they feel less alone. Rather than feeling rejected and different, they seem to have a greater sense of well-being as they are experiencing more common ground with the masses. Although this phenomenon is interesting, I fear that if this continues for a length of time, this may feed a false narrative. Further, this could encourage individuals to remain homebound and stuck in their rituals, which could become catastrophic.
Senior Adults (70+)
My clientele who are in their 70-90’s, are already in a more isolated state. Those who have been exposed to technology, are finding new ways to connect with their children and grandchildren through social media. In some cases, this is bringing people together who have not spoken or seen one another in decades. Several of my patients have not seen their grandkids for years and are meeting them for the first time over a screen. Although social media has been available for years, for many it was not a go to for social interaction. Now there seems to be a collective consciousness that says, “Why don’t we facetime or meet as a family, via zoom?” Due to the Stay at Home order, this pendulum shift of socially interacting through virtual means in some cases has created a positive effect.
What impact has Covid 19 had on you as a therapist? Personally?
Personally, for 6-9 hours a day I am doing telehealth sessions. This has given me the ability to be present in the worlds of my patients. My daily routine of scheduled appointments, as well as showing up professionally for my clients, even though I am not in person, favorably contributes to my health and well-being. Additionally, I practice mindfulness, go on walks, and value the quality time I have with my husband. As a therapist, I know the importance of being in a healthy state if I am going to support the health of others. Further, I remind myself of the accidental blessings the current state has provided and continue to see the silver linings. It is part of my disposition to believe in people, and the world, and that there is more good then evil. I truly believe that we will be stronger as a society, and as a world having to endure what we are all experiencing. There is a tremendous amount of power and good that can come out of helping others to think and operate at a higher level. In the world of psychology, we call this collective consciousness.
What advice do you have for others who are experiencing the present state?Business leaders (those who are leading employees)
To honor where your employees are coming from and remember one’s narrative isn’t necessarily your narrative. Be present and in the moment for your employees, helping them stay safe, while at the same time thrive. Make sure that others are feeling heard and that their perspective/narrative is not being challenged, but rather respected. Many times, those that are leading may be pulling from a higher platform and I don’t mean better, but stronger.
If you have the responsibility to lead others, then you have the responsibility to share in the humanity of respecting and honoring where others are coming from, what they are feeling and thinking, and supporting them in moving forward. When people don’t feel like they are being heard, they can begin to shut down.
Children are grieving. How children grieve is very different then how adults grieve or how the media represents children grieving. Children today are grieving the loss of their day-to-day world and routines. They do not futurize like adults do, but rather live in the present. Parents need to watch for signs that their child or children are struggling. This may include the most obvious signs such as tears, sullen face, and physical ailments to the not so obvious of forgetting how to do certain school assignments. Rather than parents being reactive to what they are experiencing, they need to keep in mind that the view of the world through the lens of a child is different than that of an adult. Children have not had the same experiences as adults of how to handle situations of grieving or loss of control. Some strategies parents can implement are helping children use words to express their feelings, providing them with structured activities they can engage in on a daily basis, or thinking creatively of how to instill learning in different ways (i.e., writing grandma a letter to practice communication skills, going to the park for a science lesson, or cooking a meal to instill math skills).
Structure and routine is critical. A routine might include, getting schoolwork done first, doing something physical outside, connecting with friends and helping with dinner or chores. School age children may also find positive ways to leverage social media in ways they haven’t in the past. I have several clients who have told me that they felt on the outs with a friend group and were able to re-engage through social media. Sometimes one can experience a warmer reception virtually than having to face a student or friend in the lunchroom.
If you could develop a hashtag about your role and/or career what would it be and why?