Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

A Year Like No Other Story


Both Pastoral and Private Counseling Professionals Address Current Mental Stress

by Rob Lauer

The staff of Tidewater Pastoral Counseling. From left to right: Sarah Massie, Marty Phillips, Kay Dezern, Bill Austin, Linda Clark, Pat Hoeft, Bob Gunn.

The staff of Tidewater Pastoral Counseling. From left to right: Sarah Massie, Marty Phillips, Kay Dezern, Bill Austin, Linda Clark, Pat Hoeft, Bob Gunn.

Even in the best of times, life can be challenging. That being said, one would be hard-pressed to find many people who would label 2020 as being "the best of times." In fact, "hard times" is probably a better description of the year so far.

For over 40 years, Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services has helped people work through the hard times. Combining psychological understanding with spiritual resources, pastoral counseling is provided by mental health professionals who have also had in-depth religious or theological training.  Pastoral counseling is offered on a sliding scale based on one's ability to pay. "We keep our focus on three things: hope, health and healing," Executive Director, Rev. Marty Phillips explains.

Over the past six months, he and his fellow counselors have been working to help people find hope, health and healing in the face of the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Across the entire social spectrum, we're seeing people who are having trouble sleeping, who are dealing with higher levels of irritability and relationship issues," Marty notes. "People are experiencing fatigue from working at home, as well as feelings of isolation. They are unable to do the things that they've done their entire lives, such as attend church, go to the movies, or even shop at the grocery store as they would normally. I think our brains are overloaded. We are trying to process things that don't make sense. We've never before had to deal with a disruption of our daily lives on this scale."

"The ability of people to have patience with one another and show kindness is being tested," Marty continues. "For example, I went to the post office earlier today, and even though the clerk behind the counter was polite, I could just sense that she was frustrated. It's not only the pandemic that is fueling this frustration and sense of anxiety. It's also the current social unrest and the deep divisions among so many Americans during the current election cycle."

Mary Durkin is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Resilience Professional Counseling. With a Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology Degree, Mary is committed to creating a confidential, supportive therapeutic environment where people can explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and tap into their unique strengths and natural resiliency.

The American Psychological Association has defined resilience as "the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stressIt means "bouncing back' from difficult experiences."  If ever there has been a year ripe with difficult experiences, 2020 has undoubtedly been it.  

Self-care has to be a priority
get back to the basics of day-to-day life.
               - Marty Phillips

Mary Durkin with Resilience Professional Counseling

Mary Durkin with Resilience Professional Counseling

"People who were already dealing with depression and anxiety are finding their symptoms exasperated," Mary observes. "In addition, people who have never  experienced clinical depression or anxiety are now calling for help. This is a hard time for a lot of people who feel that their lives have been upended. Many have lost their jobs and have had to move. Kids have had their lives disrupted by schools closing classrooms and moving to online instruction."

Mary describes her counseling style is collaborative, empathetic, and non-judgmental. "I certainly understand the challenges people are facing because of changes brought on by the pandemic. I had to move my practice online, and it took me time to adjust to that change."

"I have clients from all walks of life- the medical, legal and teaching professions, as well as on the frontline at grocery stores and in food service- who are feeling stressed," Mary continues. "What I've noticed is that people who've been furloughed are feeling envious of those who still have jobs. Those working at home are juggling space with spouses and children, and they envy those who can still go to the office. Those still going to their workplaces envy those who can work from home. People tend to make assumptions and conclude that others have it easier than they do. Because of this, we all must monitor our "self-talk'- the stories that we construct and tell ourselves about our situations compared to the situations of others. When we find ourselves making those comparisons, we need to stop because they're not helpful, and they're usually not accurate."

When asked what advice they would give to people generally in dealing with stress, both counselors emphasize the importance of self-care.

"Self-care has to be a priority," Marty insists.  "Get back to the basics. Get a good restful night of sleep consistently. Eat nutritiously as often as you can, and get outside for fresh air and exercise. This could be a great time to cut back on using electronics or to start meditating. Focus on connecting with people in meaningful ways, whether they be family members living under the same roof or friends and co-workers online."

Mary agrees. "Self-care is more important than ever. Eat healthy, get outside, and exercise."
In addition to this, Mary points out that the current disruption of the "old normal" can provide many opportunities for personal growth.

"This is a great time to reset," she observes. "We can start by asking ourselves what do we miss from our lives before the pandemic. Were there things we did that we took for granted but now realize were extremely meaningful? Were there people who were a part of our daily lives who we didn't appreciate as much then as we do now? Back then, were our lives dominated by routines, worries, and people that we now realize weren't all that important to our happiness and well-being? Asking ourselves these kinds of questions can help us make sense of our lives in the past, empower us to make meaningful changes, and allow each of us to live our own uniquely purposeful and satisfying life."

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling

7305 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk, VA 23505


Offices in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Suffolk