The Downing Clinic, a training center for graduate students in the Counseling and Educational Psychology program under the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Reno, continues to offer low-cost counseling services during the COVID-19 pandemic through online telehealth sessions.
The Downing Clinic is accepting new clients for telehealth sessions during this time. The sessions offer one of the only safe ways for counselors and clients to continue talking during a pandemic, where many clients the Downing Clinic serves might not have the financial resources to go to another organization for mental health needs.
“The motivation behind it is that you have people that have mental health needs that are only being increased with the pandemic because there's more stuff that they're dealing with,” Downing Counseling Clinic Director Mona Martinez said. “They didn't have access to counseling services. That's why we made the big push for telehealth, so we can help the community at large and the UNR students that come and see us for counseling. They wouldn't have to be without counseling services during a time of crisis.”
The graduate students serving as the counselors of the Downing Clinic can continue to accrue hours while staying in contact with the clients who mean so much to them, going through a training program on telehealth ethics to meet state guidelines.
“They're super happy to just be able to be getting their hours and to interact with clients,” Martinez said. “I know a lot of them, because they all have true counselor spirits, were worried about their clients and worried about people that were going to be coming to the clinic.”
Martinez said that telehealth sessions can provide the same benefits as an in-person session; research and documentation have been showing an increase in mental health symptoms like stress and anxiety during the quarantine.
“When they're in their environment, they're feeling those emotions, they're having those issues, and we're able to talk to them live-time in that environment through telehealth and be able to help them work through those things while they're experiencing them,” Martinez said. “It's a really powerful tool.”
The Downing Clinic initially experienced a dip in attendance at the start of the pandemic, when nobody truly understood how long services would be interrupted, as many clients believed they could simply wait until face-to-face sessions were available.
“We're starting to see our referrals kind of rev back up because people are just really wanting help,” Martinez said. “We did have a significant drop off at the beginning, but people seem to be coming around more and more to wanting to do telehealth just because they want access to counseling services, whatever platform it's on.”
The Downing Clinic is accepting new clients. To contact the Downing Clinic for general information or counseling services, email firstname.lastname@example.org.