Family Medicine Psychologist and Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Professional and Applied Psychology, PCOM, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“I serve two roles: as a psychologist and as a clinical supervisor of psychology trainees. As psychologists, we have rapidly shifted our mode of practice to a telehealth platform. … In our remote sessions with patients, we’re seeing more frontline workers employed in healthcare settings requesting psychological support. These patients report fearing going to work. They’re wrestling with being dedicated to their profession and at the same time feeling protective of themselves and their family members. … Patients may fear they’re COVID-19 positive, or be struggling with the adjustment to sheltering in place. I’m focused on communicating as much emotional presence and kindness as I can on the video call or telephone call, because we are not face to face. … My patient may have learned that someone in their family, or a close friend, has died of COVID-19. Given social distancing requirements, that patient may be robbed of the opportunity to engage in their cherished cultural rituals to say goodbye to their loved one or their friend. So their grief in some ways is disenfranchised. … As a supervisor, I am guiding our students as they continue to learn in a time of uncertainty. For some of our psychology students that I supervise, this may be the first time they’ve provided service telephonically. Coaching students in how to address bereavement issues can be challenging and also deeply rewarding. It provides me with a unique opportunity to bond with our students and to help them walk through this process. … Even if it isn’t a crisis call and no one is in imminent danger, if the patient is emotionally distressed, we want to make sure that we’re listening to the tone of voice and exploring what the silences and the pauses mean. … As a training program with a cognitive-behavioral orientation, we guide patients in examining their deeply held beliefs about themselves, about the world, and others. Needless to say, our beliefs regarding the safety of the world are being tested. … Similarly, in the supervision process, I’m asking students to examine their own thoughts and their own anxieties about how well they have helped the patient at this point in time. And that openness to self-reflection is fertile ground for maturing as a professional. … Given the profound losses due to COVID-19, there will be a need for behavioral health services as the future unfolds. This pandemic will provide us the opportunity to grow into more compassionate healers. At the end of the day, I want my patients to know that they were cared for during this frightening time.”
As told to Janice Fisher
May 5, 2020
Digest, the magazine for alumni and friends of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, is published by the Office of Marketing and Communications. The magazine reports on osteopathic and other professional trends of interest to alumni of the College’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and graduate programs at PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia.