Karin Purugganan still can’t believe it. It’s been two months since she started her own family counseling firm in Del Ray, and she’s completely booked with kids and families.
“When you look at your family, is it functioning the way you want?” Purugganan said. “If it’s not, how can we change that? If there’s friction between two family members, how are we addressing that?”
Purugganan, an Alexandria native and T.C. Williams High School graduate, opened wonderologie counseling and wellness at 2312 Mt. Vernon Avenue in May, and now has 19 clients. That’s enough to keep her busy until the fall, she says.
“This pandemic opened parents’ eyes to mental health concerns with their kids,” she said. “A couple of my clients actually did great. The social isolation was perfect for them and they needed a break from school. For the majority of my other clients it’s been really really stressful, and my caseload is full and everyone I refer to is full.”
Mental health issues have risen nationwide due to the pandemic, with adults and children reporting adverse mental health, substance use and other effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Purugganan also has five kids, and completely left her life as a respiratory therapist after her husband Alex had a heart attack a few years ago. She ended up going back to school and getting a degree in educational psychology from the University of Virginia and a graduate degree in education and human development from the George Washington University.
“It made us realize we had been ships passing in the night,” Purugganan said. “This doesn’t even feel like work now, because I enjoy it so much. I used to work nights and he would work days to make extra money. We were just really burning the candle at both ends, and it made us realize it wasn’t sustainable.”
Purugganan uses a lot of toys and games to interact with her clients.
“You will see a lot of toys in my office,” she said. “It can be really tricky for me to try to figure out how to give them all the tools they need to be as cohesive as possible and happy.”
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