One of the biggest challenges of anyone working during the pandemic, including those working remotely, are recurring or ever-present feelings of isolation. Even those who are able to continue working are doing so with far less person-to-person contact than we’re used to. And in a behavioral health setting, in clinics where the services provided are essential but the workspace becomes remote, the balance between feelings of isolation and feelings of collaboration can feel difficult to manage.
We spoke with Elizabeth Barron, ACCS Clinic Director for two of CHD’s programs in Springfield and Holyoke, MA, who affirms that staying connected to each other, whether in our professional lives or our personal lives, is one of the most important tools that we can use to help us move through this a little bit more easily.
Here’s how Barron and her multidisciplinary team of clinical social workers, administration and more are working together to best support not only those they serve but one another.
First, they begin each day with a check-in.
Each morning, the division’s adult mental health and clinic leadership team hold a meeting that serves to keep one another on the same page, and then the clinical operations team holds a subsequent meeting in a similar format that serves to distribute information from the division’s leaders. As important as it is for the team to stay up-to-date in a situation that seems to continuously evolve, the meetings also serve as an opportunity for staff and supervisors to work together and connect in an effort to ensure they understand each other’s needs as clearly as possible. Doing so helps deliver background on accommodations and support those served more efficiently, Barron says.
“These types of meetings have really helped cultivate a lot of empathy and understanding of each other’s stressors and program needs, and resources as well,” Barron explained. “The nine o’clock meeting has helped us all reframe everything, think about solutions, and resource out to others as needed.”
They approach everything person-first.
Though Barron acknowledges it’s “not a hard piece of technology,” she affirms that using the technology of regarding the person in any interaction first and foremost is as innovative as ever, and makes all the difference.
“Every conversation starts with ‘How are you doing?’ first, whether it’s an email or a conversation over the phone or Zoom. We ask, ‘How are you, and what do you need?’” Barron explained. “Giving staff and people served permission to ask for more than they would normally, whether its toilet paper or food, a mask and gloves, or just the basic needs, and the technology of putting the person first and checking in a bit more has helped people understand that they matter above all. That’s really cascading top-down, from leadership to all clinicians, and then trickles down to those we serve.”
They accept that someone’s best on a given day is their best right now.
You’ve probably heard the word “unprecedented,” used to describe the circumstances surrounding the pandemic numerous times. As such, it further stresses that there is no rule book for the time we’re in, and therefore our expectations surrounding performance both at work and in one’s life outside of work may vary on a given day, and the best way to push forward knowing such is to accept it. There’s currently an underlying context for measuring performance, and coaching performance at a time like this looks very different from prior days. And that can even vary from person to person.
“We are all collectively walking through a traumatic, stressful event, so we have to hear things more than once,” Barron explained. “We need help pausing and breathing sometimes, and there’s a lot of information coming in all day every day. Not only are we getting more emails and communications about changing workflows at our job but were also sometimes going home and watching the news and seeing things change, and we’re getting a lot more information constantly.”
They help each other be mindful of their windows of tolerance.
Barron explained that while some are less able to zone out from the negative implications of what’s going on, some others, on the contrary, are zoning out a lot. An important measure to take with this in mind is to try and keep people within their window of tolerance, or in other words, the state at which someone is able to function most effectively.
Keeping people within their window of tolerance or finding that window again could be as simple as asking someone “How are you?”; “How’s your family?” or “How are your kids?” The important aspect of this is to help them recalibrate to what’s important. For folks who struggle to stay present, talking about time and differences between one week to the next, or one day to the next, has been a helpful tool for clients and staff alike to reorient themselves and focus on how time is moving when people’s current concept of time is very skewed.
CHD has been a leader in behavioral health services in our community for nearly 50 years. Now, you can receive counseling and therapy from a licensed, highly trained clinician in your home or virtually any suitable location with our remote mental-health support network. If you’d like to connect with a clinician on our team call 1-844-CHD-HELP or click here to learn more