You might have some clients who are particularly struggling with despair this winter and at a loss on how to continue coping with the pandemic.
So how can you help them rediscover some of their internal resources for getting through challenging times?
In the video below, Miguel Gallardo, PsyD shares specific questions to do just that.
Ashley Vigil-Otero, PsyD conducted this interview with Miguel, and she’s already applied several of the ideas from this video with her clients. We think you’ll find them useful, too. Have a listen.
Many of them are Latinx community members. Historically speaking, we have internalized that when things are not going well in the world, there’s a deficit in us. There’s a way that the world makes it feel like we lack something, that there’s something insufficient with us for not being able to respond better or in a more appropriate way to the situation. So, part of what I do with a lot of folks is I try to help contextualize and separate out what the reality is in which we live and exist. I feel like a lot of times, people are having healthy responses to unhealthy situations. And yet, they are made to feel like their responses are the things that are not okay and unhealthy.
Really differentiating these processes will be helpful to people to not carry the entire burden of what they might be experiencing/internalizing/separating out. What is theirs? What do they have control over? What can they do something with? What is everything else out there that we can’t control that’s unhealthy? That is not something that we should accept as ours, and yet when we try to find a rhythm somewhere in that, I think we move from despair to being okay.
I think we have to separate out and differentiate between feeling hopeless from feeling helpless. I think feeling hopeless given what we’re experiencing now can be a very normal experience, but how can I help transform the feelings of helplessness to help the person do something differently as they’re moving forward?
Then, thinking about it again from a liberatory perspective, it’s like, “How do we take care of each other during this time?” I think it’s really interesting because there’s been a lot of research. Some research talked about how historically marginalized communities in times of crisis are thriving in many ways. Many of the community members that I work with are struggling and heavily in survival mode, but they’re also resilient. We also are accustomed to enduring and moving through very difficult situations, and we have for generations. There’s also something inherent about who we are. For example, for Latinx community members, who are primarily the folks that I work with, there’s something inherent around our legacy of surviving and thriving in the midst of chaos and crisis. When I talk about decolonizing, it is also a part of reconnecting people with those historical ancestral values and processes that, in many ways, have been lost and forgotten.
I may not always talk about it as ancestral or historical, depending on the client, but what I may think about is their own historical family processes in history. Trying to really contextualize their circumstances and situations within their own immediate family members and culture about what that looks like. There may be traumas in there, and in spite of those traumas, the individual sits before me in the office at that moment in time. Whether they’ve experienced the trauma themselves or whether the trauma is intergenerational historical trauma that they’ve experienced through secondhand stories, they’re sitting before me, and their families have moved through and endured many of those challenges.
So, what is there to be learned and gained from understanding those processes? What is there to be learned and gained that the individual can use at this moment in time to provide them with a sense of patience and persistence? We are not necessarily accepting that this situation is okay, but accepting the situation for where we are and what it is. We’re thinking about what they can do to change the outcome of the situation in a way that’s more consistent with what they want their life to look like.
I also think a lot about exceptions. I look for the exceptions of circumstances, scenarios and situations. So, I may ask someone, “When’s the last time you felt a sense of despair, or hopelessness, or helplessness, and you were able to move through it? What did that look like? What was different about that situation? What can we learn from those moments in time to help build at this moment in time and move forward?”
I think what happens is, a lot of times people become so inundated with what’s right before them and start feeling so overwhelmed with the situation that they have a short-term memory. They forget about things that they have done before and some of the skills that they have as internal resources, et cetera, that they can use. So, sometimes it’s just a matter of really just revisiting and understanding how to continue to use those types of internal resources and skillsets to deal with the situation at hand.
Now we want to hear from you. What stood out to you? How might you apply one of the ideas Miguel shared with your client? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.
You might also like to see:
A Reading of “Lockdown” with Peter Levine, PhD
When the COVID-19 Pandemic Leaves Us Feeling Helpless
Feeling Stuck During the Pandemic: Specific Questions to Help Your Clients
How to Help Clients Process Their Fears about World Events
The Same Pandemic, Vastly Different Experiences
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