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Del Ray Psych and Wellness is offering three half-hour $30 therapy sessions to anybody during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Co-owner Dr. Lauren Fisher has some simple advice during these stressful days: stay present and focus on what you know and what you can control at this time.

Lately, the Del Ray therapist has been meeting online with dozens of her clients and setting up support groups. With nine total therapists on staff working from home, the entire practice has gone completely digital. Hundreds of their clients are now only able to connect with their therapists online or on the phone.

“We’ve gotten a lot more requests for appointments, especially from couples,” Fisher told ALXnow. “People can’t avoid each other anymore. You’re having a lot of families and couples with dysfunction that are being forced to stay in the same house where some of their usual coping would be avoiding or leaving, and in some cases that’s actually good because families can be toxic.”

Fisher’s latest group, Connection Without Infection: A Free Therapist Led Support Group, provides tips and resources on Facebook on how to cope with the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic. This weekend, she will also launch another Facebook page to help parents though the pandemic.

“Things are changing day-to-day, so it’s important to have a plan of action every day and know how to spend our time,” Fisher told ALXnow. “We know that this will end and folks should keep a schedule as consistently as possible, with boundaries around work, meals, exercise and connections — the things we would do in our regular daily lives to stay mentally fit.”

The pandemic is also a collective experience, which, Fisher said, is making her therapists able to empathize with their patients on a much deeper level.

“For the first time we’re actually experiencing a shared trauma and crisis with our clients,” she said. “But most of our clients are doing pretty well, which actually makes me think that we’ve actually done a good job of helping them. So, I feel like we’re trying to maintain and make room for the people who are struggling.”

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Alexandria’s Department of Community and Human Services will host its second annual mental health first aid (MHFA) training program this month.

Laypersons and paraprofessionals alike are encouraged to participate in the eight-hour training and certification program.

The first session, which will focus on youth, will be conducted on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and a second session focusing on adults mental health first aid will be held Feb. 26 and Feb. 27 from 1-5 p.m. Both training seminars will be held at the Alexandria Health Department (4480 King Street).

“The training demonstrates the initial help given to a person showing signs of mental illness or a mental health crisis,” according to the city. “The course teaches risk factors, warning signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders, the effects of the illnesses, an overview of treatments and a five-step action plan for helping someone with symptoms.”

There are about 239,000 adult Virginians with a serious mental illness, which at around 4% is on par with the national average, according to a 2015 report.

The MHFA program is designed to help people identify and respond to the signs of mental illness and addiction. Those interested must register online and there is room for 20 participants in each course, but the classes will be canceled if there are fewer than 10 registrants.

Alexandria offers 24 hour adult mental health outpatient services for residents at the Alexandria Community Services Board (720 North St. Asaph Street).

Available services include:

  • Individual, group and family counseling
  • Medication management
  • Emergency mental health services 24 hours a day
  • Assistance with admission to hospitals for psychiatric care
  • Case management to help access and coordinate services
  • In-home counseling services for the elderly or children in crisis
  • Confidential testing for HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis
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