A Kansas City therapist talks about a ‘very difficult’ time to be a mental health provider
Counselor Mercedes Mora says the pandemic has taken a toll on her clients, her community and herself.
As the U.S. ends its second calendar year of the COVID-19 pandemic, KCUR wanted to hear from members of the greater Kansas City community about their experiences and reflections.
During the pandemic, mental health counselor Mercedes Mora had to switch to conducting therapy sessions online. Now, she’s returned to some in-person sessions with masks. But it’s still not quite the same.
“Because they’re either virtual and/or with face masks,” she said, “it’s more difficult to read your participants’ body language.”
Mora is a clinical supervisor and counselor at the Guadalupe Centers, which serve Latinos in Kansas City. She told KCUR’s Nomin Ujiyediin that she saw people struggle with losing jobs, relapsing into substance abuse disorders and adapting to the technological challenges of Zoom.
On how the pandemic has changed people’s mental health
Initially during the shutdown, we had a captured audience because no one was working, everybody was at home. So initially it started out rough on the tech side, but (clients) were logging in, they were being compliant as best as they could. As the pandemic progressed and cases increased and jobs were lost and income was lost, especially among our target population, so many of them weren't eligible for financial assistance because of lack of social security numbers, for example. The stress levels became higher. Co-occurring disorders began to become present — such as anxiety, stress, depression. And because of those… there were a lot more relapses with their substance use disorders, even though they had been making progress prior to the pandemic.
On whether the number of people seeking mental health treatment has changed
I know that other agencies we collaborate with are overwhelmed as far as numbers are concerned. It makes it difficult for me to refer participants demonstrating co-occurring disorder symptoms. With us, you add the language barrier on top of everything else and the lack of health insurance. So yes, I've seen a change in the need for it. I don't know how to define whether more people are accessing it. We sure are referring, but I don't know how well that is going as of now. I think we'll see more evidence of whether people are seeking mental health therapy in the next year. Because I think we'll be seeing people in person more frequently. And so we'll be able to do more case management and community support for those participants needing it, and we'll be able to track it better.
On how the pandemic has affected her own mental health
I think every counselor should have a counselor and address our own mental health, well-being. But it's been very challenging. For me personally, I've been impacted both emotionally, just to see the cases and to take it home with you, just to worry so much, to stress out so much. You try to process and apply what you know in this field to yourself. But it has been, I'll be honest with you, very, very difficult. And it's increased my fatigue, mental and physical. It's just something I'm overcoming as we start to get out of this.