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  • Writer's pictureAnne Massar

COVID-19 can't stop this counsellor!

The world is an unusual place right now....kinda feels like sci-fi but it's not. Today I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription which I had previously called in. Only 1 entrance to the building was open to control the flow of people, I guess. At that door (still outside) was a staff member with a large plexi-glass shield in front of her, gloves, etc. She was filling out a form for each, address, phone number and why you were there. She then placed my credit card in a zip-loc bag along with the form and delivered it to the pharmacist inside. After a while (maybe 15 minutes) another staff member brought out my prescription from a different locked and guarded door. I found myself thinking "if someone didn't believe the COVID-19 pandemic was real before, they certainly will now".

I am lucky. Prior to the pandemic I was already conducting much of my practice by telephone and video. I have discontinued seeing clients (for now) in person and most have made the transition successfully. I read an article this morning, suggesting we buy gift cards from our non-essential service professionals (e.g. hairdressers). I've been thinking about my hair stylist all day and know that she - like many others - must be feeling stressed without an income. The need is great but we need to start somewhere - one person at a time. I'm a great believer in the "pay it forward" approach to life. Ironically, several years ago when I was out of work and starting my practice, this same hairdresser waived payment for my service that day. Who knew that I would be paying it forward back to her?

I would like to offer another "pay it forward" opportunity. This is a surreal and frightening time. I have provided counselling to many struggling with anxiety over the past 25 years. The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented - a new source of anxiety. From my experience, the worst thing people can do when struggling to live with anxiety is isolate. Now more than ever we need to connect with and reach out to others. Counselling is cost prohibitive for many people who could benefit from counselling support at this time of uncertainty. I am beginning a weekly counselling group by secure video platform. Anyone in Canada is welcome to participate. In the spirit of paying it forward, there will be no charge. If you are able to afford payment, I request that you put that money toward helping someone in your community.

If you would like to participate in the COVID-19 support group, I ask that you send an e-mail or text message and in a return e-mail, I will send you a link to the group. I will then arrange for you to read and sign a form which discusses confidentiality and other procedural items. This will be an open group meaning there could be different attendees each week. Eight people (+ myself) is the maximum number with whom I'd like to begin. If I feel able to manage greater numbers (and/or if other counsellors are interested in joining this process) we can support even more people. To begin, it will be 'first come first served' until we have 8 committed participants. Group will be held on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. PDT and the first on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020. I believe this will make it possible for people across Canada to participate at a mutually convenient time.

In closing, thank you for listening (or reading). Please remember to "pay it forward" in your community in whatever way you doesn't have to be creative and finally, consider joining the group or letting someone you know who might benefit from a connection with others.

Sechelt Inlet, Sechelt, BC

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