Fred Finch Youth & Family Services Therapists Find Unexpected Benefits of 'Virtual' Counseling

Fred Finch

​Within days of California’s Shelter in Place order, a nonprofit organization that helps thousands of the most vulnerable children, young adults and families throughout the state, transitioned from offering in-person mental health counseling to providing them virtually. Fred Finch providers are offering more than 1,200 families, teens and children throughout the state services by phone, text and platforms ranging from Zoom to WhatsApp.

“The young people we serve have experienced severe trauma in their lives,” said Fred Finch CEO and President Tom Alexander. “It is critical that with the uncertainty and rupture in their routines created by the pandemic, they continue to receive mental health counseling and support from our dedicated staff.”

Medi-Cal, which covers therapy for low-income young people and families, relaxed its regulations to accommodate social distancing. The state’s public health insurance program does not normally permit counseling by video chat or phone.

Though the remote sessions could be awkward at first, Fred Finch therapists have found that some of their participants are actually flourishing in the virtual environment. Teenagers, accustomed to communicating with their friends by video chat, can be more comfortable revealing their thoughts and feelings in a virtual setting than in person. Often, they are also more at ease in their own space than in an office or meeting place. Participants are also able to share their homes and rooms, personal belongings and pets, even their daily routines, giving therapists a new window into the lives of their clients.

In one session that Fred Finch therapist Sonia Heidenreich had with a teenage girl recently, her client finished putting on her eye makeup as their session was starting. While unconventional, it gave Heidenreich insight into the importance of this routine for her client’s mental health.

“We talk a lot about ‘meeting the client where they are,’ and I think that in some ways, virtual communication can epitomize this,” Heidenreich said. “Whether that means literally meeting the client where they are – I had a client call me from the grocery store – or in a more emotional sense, being able to respond with an encouraging text in the moment to a kid who reaches out for support, we’re more accessible to clients when they need us.”

About Fred Finch Youth & Family Services

Fred Finch Youth & Family Services has been providing intensive community-based mental health services for youth for more than two decades. Characterized by accessible, trauma-informed, and intensive support, mental health services are provided to young people with mental illness, significant trauma or loss, or other emotional distress.

Source: Fred Finch

About Fred Finch

Fred Finch Youth & Family Services has been providing intensive community-based mental health services for youth for more than two decades.

Fred Finch
3800 Coolidge Avenue
Oakland, CA

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