How to Counsel During Quarantine

With the craziness that has become society’s new normal due to COVID-19, I was curious to know what measures were being taken for EOU community members when it came to mental health. Luckily, I was able to catch both Marianne Weaver, Licensed Psychologist and Director of the Eastern Oregon University Counseling Center, and Adam Lotfi who is also a Licensed Psychologist from Eastern Oregon University’s Counseling Center, in a phone call about the matter.

To my surprise, there has been a decrease in students’ utilization of the counseling center. Weaver stated in our interview, “It’s so interesting… especially a decrease in new students contacting us for first time appointments.” Weaver suspects that this may be due to students being home with family and a larger support system. Lotfi added that, “A lot of them [students] are just kind of zoned out… they would just rather unplug from the screen a little bit and get their self care needs met in other ways.” I think Lotfi makes a good point, seeing as students are now spending all of the time they would normally spend in a classroom, in front of a computer screen. 

Just like many other resources at EOU, the counseling center is still open to give counseling sessions via Zoom, the online conferencing service. One concern that may come up for students is whether or not the Zoom counseling session is secure. Weaver reassured me that there is nothing to worry about, explaining, “Our IT department and the university has paid for the HIPAA secure zoom platform… it offers a higher level of security.” Students knowing that they can securely confide in a counselor is extremely important during this time, so it should be very comforting to know that that is available.

As wonderful as remote counseling is, there is one flaw that students should be aware of, especially if they have moved back home to another state for the time being. Weaver and Lotfi are licensed in the state of Oregon to practice psychology, which Weaver explains that, “Our licensing board only allows us to work with people who are in the state of Oregon when you work with them… One of the things we needed to do was limit our services to students who are actually in the state of Oregon at the time of service, they don’t have to live in Oregon, they just have to be in the state.” This is unfortunate for students who have moved back to their home state, but Weaver and Lotfi have started a new project for situations such as that.

“Counselors in Quarantine” is the name of Weaver and Lotfi’s new YouTube channel, where they reach out to the EOU community to provide, “some insight, wisdom, tips, just stuff like that,” as Lotfi put it. Weaver informs me that if you are needing help or don’t know if you need help, “Students can always just reach out and say, ‘Hey this is where I am, this is what I think is going on, do you think counseling would be helpful for me, or could be helpful for me?’” Lotfi also commented that he thinks, “I would normalize a lot of that, because I don’t think that’s that uncommon of a feeling right now… I would definitely encourage people to check in with themselves.”

There are a lot of things changing for the EOU community, but it is definitely reassuring to know that the quality care we get from the Eastern Oregon University’s Counseling Center is not one of those things. The community is fortunate to have these counselors doing all they can to ensure the community is mentally healthy and in a healthy environment, both at home and within. 

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