Here is a list of counselling services if you want to talk to someone
Coronavirus: My anxiety tiger is back on the prowl
Therapy can form part of a suite of approaches to mental health during the Covid-19 crisis. Photograph: iStock
I’ve named him Blossom, and he is an anxiety tiger. He’s nothing special: nearly everyone seems to have an anxiety tiger in these virus-ridden days.
Blossom showed up on Friday, March 13th, the day after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced school closures. But Blossom has been here before, appearing on and off for well over a decade. I’ve previously been on anti-anxiety medication and found it worked for me.
Blossom is a pest. He follows me everywhere. He wakes me up in the middle of the night, growling viciously and threatening to attack. He interrupts my work and yells at me when I’m having conversations or trying to relax. So far, he hasn’t actually attacked. The fear is that he will.
Naming Blossom – rather than desperately trying to chase him away – has helped me. But still, being followed by an anxiety tiger is no fun. Sometimes, his mere presence is enough to threaten depression. None of us know how long these tigers will be here.
I spoke to Helen Vaughan, a psychotherapist and owner of Maynooth Counselling and Psychotherapy. While our interview was not a formal psychotherapy session, and psychotherapists are bound by confidentiality, Vaughan did agree to let me talk to her about my anxiety, and to share some of those details here.
For the past few years, I’ve lived in a shared house with four other people. We’ve done well together, but, in the coronavirus outbreak, it’s been a challenge: we’re five adults who have separate lives and responsibilities. While I’ve been able to work from home, some of my housemates have had no choice but to go to work in person, including one in a front-line service. The flow of traffic in and out of the house is inevitable, but anxiety-inducing – an anxiety that others in shared homes may feel too.
I’ve removed myself from the house for the time being and gone to live with my parents. They’re no spring chickens and one of them has an underlying health condition that places them in an at-risk category. By staying with them, I’m able to help out around the house, but going out for groceries is – not just for me but for everyone – a bit terrifying. When I get back, I want to scrub off my skin.
Is it helpful for me to name Blossom – or do I risk becoming too fond of him? “If it makes sense for you and helps you, and it feels positive, no harm,” Vaughan says to me. “We have to think about what works for us, while being mindful of others too. People’s anxiety may stem from a sense of powerlessness and a loss of control. But it sounds like you have acknowledged where your own behaviour might have upset anyone, and that they may have a different idea of what works for them.”
Vaughan helped me to realise that I can’t control how others feel or respond to this crisis, but I can control my responses and take whatever positive steps I can to keep myself and others healthy.
Most of our conversation was a chance for me to talk, with Vaughan reflecting back to me while acknowledging this was an unprecedentedly “weird” time.
“Therapists are not trying to fix a problem,” she says. “ We are here to help people understand and tease out how they feel. So I might, for instance, ask a client: ‘you feel frustrated?’ They say: ‘no, I feel angry.’ And I work through that with them.”
While it wasn’t a completely formal session, I did feel much better after talking to her. Friends and family have been a support but a therapist can help in a different, more structured way by exploring our feelings without offering advice.
Therapy can form part of a suite of approaches to mental health during the Covid-19 crisis, including exercise, meditation and, where a GP deems it appropriate, medication.
However, many people who were already in therapy, or who now want to see a therapist, can’t visit their mental health professional in person. In response, many of those mental health professionals have moved online.
The Irish Times has compiled a list of just some of the online supports that are now available. While some of them offer donation-only services, please pay if you can: by taking up a free space that you don’t need, you’re depriving someone else of that valuable time slot and depriving a worker of their income.
All information here was provided by mental health professionals and received in good faith. Only those who have provided us with details of their professional qualifications are included here.
General manager and psychotherapist
What’s on offer: Free counselling online with fully qualified, accredited counsellors and psychotherapists, via video, instant chat, email and audio. Free, counsellor-facilitated support groups for a wide range of mental health issues and clinically moderated online peer support. Supported by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention and the Department of Health Sláintecare Integration Fund and Donations.
Key advice: The most important thing to do is to not be afraid to reach out for a safe, trusted source of mental health support – the earlier we can engage with professional support, the better. Unfortunately not all services now offering support online are trained, experienced or insured in working therapeutically and ethically online. Make sure to ask as many questions you need of any mental health professional to make sure they have all the appropriate qualifications and experience.
What’s on offer: Counselling and psychotherapy.
Fees: €70 an hour. Low cost available for students/unemployed.
Key advice: Notice your anxiety/feelings and accept them as a response to this difficult situation. Try to stay in the present and not to catastrophise about worst-case scenarios, what’s to come, and what ifs.
Counselling and psychotherapy
What’s on offer: McGrath deals with trauma and chronic pain conditions as well as anxiety, grief and depression as well as general mental health issues.
Fees: By donation. Free for front-line heroes.
Key advice: Limit your social media. Set up a routine given these new circumstances and try to keep any of your old routines that you can. Everybody is different so take time to feel how you’re feeling. Each day may bring new challenges and as such there may be a shock response or delayed response to what’s happening - that’s okay.
Try not to judge yourself during these days, have compassion and kindness for yourself. Keep talking to others over the phone or email/text. Keep to the basics, sleep, exercise and food. Now is not the time to be reinventing the wheel, it’s about getting through in one piece.
Web: abcCounselling.com and Gezion.com
What’s on offer: Counselling and psychotherapy.
Fees: €85 per session.
Key advice: It will take a while for us to become reconciled to this new normal. It will involve more grief before this passes – and time to get used to the hopefully temporary loss of our lifestyle – but I hope it will result in better relationships and greater meaning in our lives.
What’s on offer: Clinical psychology and online therapy via video calls and Zoom.
Fees: €80 per session.
Key advice: Maintain structure and routine, maintain social connectedness, take time off online forums, eat/ sleep/ exercise well and get some support if you are struggling to cope at this difficult time.
Dr Sarah-Jane Gerber
What’s on offer: Clinical psychology via video and voice calls.
Fees: €80 per session.
Key advice: At times of uncertainty we naturally strive to take control where we can as a way to cope with the uncontrollable. This may be stocking our cupboards, consuming continuous news threads, writing to-do lists. While it’s important for us to have routine and structure, it can be unhelpful to create a lot of activities when we are likely not feeling our best and perhaps feeling anxious.
It can be helpful to read or listen to the news, but set specific times to check your platforms, rather than continuous scrolling. Ultimately, we need to try as best we can to live “in the moment”, so to speak. Concentrate on each day and find ways to energise yourself (like going for a walk or exercise), learn/ create (work, read a book), connect (call family and friends, play with your children) and relax. Try to find something good each day, slow down and notice everyday pleasures.
Child and adult psychotherapist
What’s on offer: psychotherapy, CBT, play therapy, family interventions, parental support.
Fees: €60 per session.
Key advice: Limit exposure to news media. Avoid staying up late to monitor news. Keep a routine. When you do look at news, be sure to seek out reputable sources. Keep in touch with friends and family for support via social media or a phone. Meditate, do some yoga, stretch or practise deep breathing. Do activities you enjoy. Be optimistic. Keep a healthy diet. Get some exercise. Use your moral compass or spiritual life for support. Remind yourself that strong feelings will fade.
Mia Christina Doring
Psychotherapist at Daring Greatly Therapy
What’s on offer: Psychotherapy including CBT, specialising in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD, online sessions via Zoom.
Fees: €60 per session on a sliding scale.
Key advice: Take time each day to breathe mindfully.
Psychotherapist and counsellor
What’s on offer: Psychotherapy via video call, Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp.
Fees: €70 (negotiable – sliding scale).
Key advice: See BasinStreetCentre.com for more on stress response and fight or flight.
Counsellor and psychotherapist
What’s on offer: Psychotherapy and stress management via phone and video.
Fees: €65 for 50 mins, or support sessions at €30 for 25 mins.
Key advice: Take each day as it comes. Try to get some fresh air, even if it’s just opening all the windows in your house. Use meditation techniques: these can include wind-down routines from yoga or pilates classes. Do things you enjoy. Keep in touch with friends and family by phone or video chat. Remember this will pass.
What’s on offer: Psychotherapy, stress management, CBT, existential analysis and mindfulness.
Key advice: While we cannot change the circumstances that we find ourselves in, we can choose how we respond on a personal level to the current coronavirus situation. Managing our thoughts and implementing mindfulness and relaxation techniques help us stay in the moment – which is the only reality there is. In this way we avoid mental “time travelling” and additional anxiety associated with the “what ifs” that can overwhelm our thinking.
What’s on offer: Coaching psychology and positive psychology via video calls and web-based workshops.
Fees: Normally €150. Discounted to €75 for anyone impacted by Covid-19.
Key advice: Notice that you are anxious and stressed – it’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. You’re supposed to be anxious, it’s a natural response mechanism to a threat that has kept the human race safe to this point in time. However, it’s not supposed to be a constant thing, so once you notice you’re stressed and anxious it’s important to take whatever steps you can to reduce it.
Challenge yourself to make a list of 20-30 things you CAN do, and actually do some of them. Action can reduce the panic and anxiety, particularly when people feel powerless. When you take control and do the things you can do, your focus reduces the anxiety and the action allows you to feel a sense of achievement. This includes resting. Anxiety and stress like this is exhausting so step away from the phone, TV, business, family and just rest. Slow down.
Psychotherapist and counsellor supporting families living with an addicted family member (trading as Mindful Rest)
What’s on offer: Psychotherapy, CBT, mindfulness and addiction counselling, offered via telephone, Skype or Zoom.
Fees: €60 per hour. €40 concessionary and willing to offer free sessions to those who have lost jobs.
Key advice: Use grounding tools and breathing exercises to calm the mind and body. Limit your exposure to upsetting news. Do physical exercise. Talk to others and name the fear or anxiety. Listen to calming music.
Psychotherapist specialising in psychotrauma and stress management
What’s on offer: Video calls and phone therapy.
Fees: €80 per session – sliding scale available depending on client circumstances.
Key advice: Find somatic experiencing techniques on YouTube to regulate the nervous system which is in an appropriate level of fight and flight. Regulation will help stop the nervous system becoming overwhelmed or going into the freeze response.
Dr Marie McGrath
Senior clinical psychologist
What’s on offer: Clinical psychology via video and voice calls.
Key advice: This is an unprecedented event in our history. Covid-19 is having an impact on every aspect of our daily lives including how we negotiate shopping, childcare, manage finances and look after our physical and mental health. It is a stressor that could last for a number of months and therefore, it is important for people to learn to adapt to this new style of living and accept that they can live and cope with uncertainty and extremity.
A regular and predictable routine around our mood and mental health management can help build resilience and make difference to our everyday experience. It is important to reflect and develop an awareness of our triggers, manage our thoughts and physiological symptoms of anxiety. This knowledge can help us get through the toughest of moments. Building and linking into appropriate practical and social supports can boost our mood and help us get through these challenging times. Supports can come in many forms from therapy, exercise, social connections, positive affirmations and daily activities. We learn resilience when we are tested the most.
Counsellor and psychotherapist
What’s on offer: Counselling, psychotherapy and adolescent counselling via telephone or online counselling.
Fees: €40 per hour.
Key advice: Limit social media/news exposure. Find someone to talk to – friends, family, therapist, charity, helpline or an online forum. Do video calls with your friends and family to maintain feelings of closeness. Get some fresh air while you can while avoiding busy places.
The online counselling pioneers
In 2009, Turn2Me was established as an online mental health service. It offers free counselling with fully qualified and accredited counsellors and psychotherapists via instant chat, video, email and audio, with a free support group facilitated by counsellors for a wide range of mental health issues.
Two years later, psychotherapist Mary McHugh was a founding member of the Irish Online Psychotherapy and Counselling Service (IOCPS). Now the sole owner, McHugh says that the service was established to fill a gap.
“We felt that not all people’s needs were being met by face-to-face services and so we set up an online service,” she says. “I’ve been doing it since then. In recent weeks, the coronavirus crisis has made it difficult for therapists to have face-to-face sessions, but many have never offered online services before. At our core is the belief that, when it comes to therapeutic support, people should be met where they’re at – be that emotionally or geographically. In this, we hope to break down some of the barriers to accessing support that the limitations of physical disability, anxiety, work and family commitments and location may place on those in need.”
“Counselling online is not different at all, and once therapists start they’ll be fine. Through our Facebook page, IOCPS has been offering advice and support to therapists and clients in this time of crisis. We have a private Facebook group which therapists can join for advice on working online.”
In the mornings, IOCPS has been offering online meditations through Facebook Live, and it recently posted a useful and reassuring interview with midwife Avril Flynn for mums- and dads-to-be about the changes they can expect in our maternity hospitals.
Recently, they also organised an online training for about 80 therapists, which consisted of 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon. “We want all households to know this service is available,” says McHugh. “For many reasons, and long before this, not everyone is able to attend counselling in person.”