PUEBLO — As we work to rebound from the effects of the pandemic, the stigma surrounding mental health and therapy has really been challenged, as we were all thrust into this new world, and many of us needed to find new ways to cope because whatever we were doing pre-COVID was no longer working.
One counseling center in Pueblo has been working around the clock to help people, including first responders, turn over a new leaf.
THE NEED FOR THERAPY IS GROWING DURING THE PANDEMIC
A New Leaf Therapy in Pueblo just expanded to two buildings.
CEO Regan Young spent decades in social work and opened her practice six years ago, aimed at helping first responders.
They have 16 counselors, six of them are graduate interns offering lower rates, but the facility is still bursting at the seams as more people seek out help.
They have a new teaching room in the basement to train therapists in new techniques for treating trauma and other issues. They, like so many other therapists, are working to reach as many people as they can.
“Therapists are really easy to talk to. You know, just, generally speaking, we’re easy to talk to,” CEO Regan Young said, “We’re very non-judgmental and very open we’ve seen a lot of things people go through. So, I do hope people reach out.”
They have cute therapy dogs that hang out as well.
They plan to host more group therapy sessions, for couples or teens, for instance.
They have a grief group that already meets regularly and plan to have hiking, yoga, and horse therapy to reach more people that may want non-traditional options.
The therapists believe the release of the stigma surrounding health, may become one of the silver linings from the pandemic.
COPING SKILLS FOR EVERYONE
A New Leaf Therapy works with clients of all backgrounds and ages.
The therapists at the center say they’ve noticed increased grief due to the pandemic, because we’ve all lost something over the past year, including that sense of normalcy.
Some tips to cope include, keep a gratitude journal.
Also- try to reframe your thinking:
When you wake up don't say “This day is going to suck.” But don’t say the opposite either, ie: “This day is not going to suck.” Because you have to go deeper to believe it.
“One thing that I try to teach them (patients) is to acknowledge the negativity,” counselor Kristin Brown said, “So you say- ‘this is really tough right now. But I know that I’m strong enough to be able to get through it.’ So, you’re still acknowledging the pain. But you’re able to counteract it with a positive affirmation: I’m strong. I’m capable. I’m important. I’m a good mom. I’m a great student.”
Brown also encourages you to get outside if you can. A lot of us are stuck at our computer for hours either at home or work, day after day, so take a break, soak in some sunshine. That could help break the monotony and change your focus.
The coping skills may seem surface, but studies show, the more you do it, the easier it gets and you can retrain your brain to get out of those negative feedback loops. If all else fails, a professional could really help.
“There’s not a magic trick to help people feel better during the pandemic,” CEO Regan Young said.
Young encourages her clients to be mindful of coping skills and breaks down coping skills into two categories: processing and distraction.
Processing would be if you go toward a problem, like talking to a friend, journaling, or therapy.
Distraction would be taking a break from the problem, like watching a movie or reading a good book.
“What happens is- sometimes they get out of balance. Where they do too much processing or too much distracting. And if you do too much processing they’re overthinking and overthinking a problem can really increase anxiety,” Young said, “And distraction- if people are over-distracting their problems can start building up and they can have other problems as a result of that. It’s different for everyone when it comes to what the right recipe is and the right balance is.”
“If you’re having a hard time with self-care and coping, that’s an indication therapy may be something you need in your life,” Brown added.
ONE CLIENT WISHED SHE HADN'T WAITED TO GET HELP
“I always really liked the thought of helping people who are helping others, because if they’re doing well, it kind of trickles down,” Young said.
“We’re seeing more anxiety, more depression. The first responders and health care workers are experiencing a lot of burnout with the volume of work,” Young said they’re working with a lot more trauma therapy.
During the pandemic, they grew so much Young bought the building next door.
They have 16 therapists and are looking to hire more.
Pre-pandemic they had to turn away about 60 people a week, that number has grown to about 150, according to Young.
“I hate that because it takes a lot of courage to reach out for help. People are at a point where they’re ready to ask for it and I hate disappointing them that we don’t have openings,” Young said.
Telehealth options have also made things super easy, you can just log into your email and click a link to get to your session.
“They don’t have to commute, so they can do it over their lunch hour, or just quickly at home,” Young said.
And they work to help everyone in the community.
“The tragedy happened a year and a half ago, and I just felt stuck. So I needed something to get me forward,” MaryAnn Terrones said.
Terrones has been seeing her counselor for about six months. She wanted to work through her family tragedy after she saw how much it helped her teenager.
“I’ve seen a tremendous recovery in her confidence,” Terrones said, “and just her awareness and reconnecting with her self.”
Terrones said her trauma was exacerbated by the stress of the pandemic, and she wished she hadn’t waited to talk to someone, “I’m an advocate now to help inspire all adults to put themselves first. I should have enrolled us (she and her daughter) at the same time.”
The counselors say a lot of their clients are coping with grief because everyone lost a lot this past year. If not a loved one, just the sense of normalcy. There are ways to cope at home, but sometimes it’s not enough. So they encourage you to seek out a professional.
“I do hope that will be a silver lining of the pandemic, that it encourages people to reach out more,” Young said, because therapy can be life-changing.
Above all, the therapists remind us, we have to give ourselves grace!
We are living in unprecedented times and we need to give ourselves a break and not hold ourselves to the same standards.
To find out more about A New Leaf Therapy, click here.
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