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JourneyCare celebrates National Counseling Month

This year’s theme for National Counseling Awareness month in April shows that no one is immune to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic – not even social workers and bereavement counselors who are experts in coping.

Themed “Burn Bright, Not Out,” this April observance acknowledges that essential workers like JourneyCare bereavement staff and social workers also struggle with personal or professional challenges from the pandemic. Nevertheless, they remain dedicated to serving as a strong support for patients and families facing serious illness and the end of life.

To learn more about how they maintain their emotional balance (and how we can, too!), we spoke to Bereavement Services Manager Samantha McGlumphy, LCPC and Social Worker Lynn Skubiszewski, LCSW, Araba McKinney, LSW, LMSW, ACHP-SW, and Vanessa Cisneros, LCSW, for their expert thoughts on how to navigate Year 2 of COVID-19 – and why counseling could play a valuable role.

Why are counselors important?

Samantha: “I believe that counseling is an important profession because counselors provide a safe, nonjudgmental space for individuals to explore all parts of themselves and provide guidance on improving their lives. Furthermore, we help provide the tools and strategies for coping and healing. We help patients, families, and caregivers at JourneyCare by providing education, support, and tools to “walk through” the grief journey. We know that we grieve our losses for a lifetime, so we help our families learn how to carry and cope with their grief.”

Lynn: “Counseling is an important tool in helping people who are struggling to cope with the isolation, fear, job loss, family separation, and more. Counseling is always about walking in someone else’s shoes and providing support and comfort to help alleviate the anguish or sort through the ruin. We find resources such as veteran’s opportunities, senior assistance, caregiver support, final arrangements, financial assistance, government programs, food pantries, insurance advice, and more in addition to counseling on grief, loss, pain, anxiety and depression both in the patient and the caregiver.”

The theme for Counseling Awareness Month is “Burn Bright, Not Out.” How do you practice self-care to ensure you are healthy to continue helping patients, their families and caregivers?

Araba: “One of the hardest things I work on is being mindful of work habits and its influence on my personal life. I try to shut off work when possible to focus on family events. I enjoy doing things that bring me joy like watching mindless TV, shopping and bike riding.”

Lynn: “I admit, at times I felt burned out this past year, especially as I was not able to see many of our patients due to visiting restrictions. I normally would hug patients and families and shake hands. None of that was possible so it was very frustrating for all of us. Self-care is different for all of us. I personally have a dog and we play, cuddle and take walks. I also love to cook and have started baking more. Decorating – changing up knick knacks and flowers and pillows and such in my home and on my front porch. I also love British TV and movies!”

Samantha: “I try to maintain a routine to establish a sense of normalcy and predictability in my life. I also try to engage in an activity that brings me joy every day, such as playing with my dog, cooking or dancing. It’s also important for me to just have time to relax and process my own feelings and reactions to my experiences.”

Vanessa: “Counselors are embedded in emotional work. For that reason, I try to keep a strict boundary between home and work. I will not write my case notes at home, if it means I have to stay in the office late, that’s okay, but I’m not opening my laptop at home. I take long walks with my husband and pup. I also check in with my mom daily – she is my best friend.”

What is your advice for healing after a year of COVID-19 and isolation?

Araba: “Healing is a very personal journey for everyone. Review the things learned over the past year, think about what you missed most in the absence of socialization with friends/family and how you want the next year to look if restrictions continue and when we resume “normal” interactions. COVID-19 has been a learning experience for most in my opinion, some good lessons on resilience, humility and importance of human contact.  The takeaway is how to be better going forward knowing how important isolated family time has been and being intentional about scheduling that time. My heart has ached most for our patients in facilities that are unable to visit with their loved ones, or worse have passed away without family with them. Those are moments that will never be regained and will likely always hold heaviness for those families. It is my hope that time will prove helpful in healing as we all carve out our paths to new beginnings while giving loving memory to those that have been lost in this period.”

Vanessa: “I think it’s okay to try different things, there isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to healing. Anything from scheduling phone calls with friends and family, adopting a pet, join a cause or maybe even a search for a counselor in your area. The pandemic has tested everyone’s mental health, we woke up one day and life was not the same.”

JourneyCare’s grief support team offers free support to hospice families and anyone in the 13 counties we are licensed to serve. For more information, call our Care Line at 224-770-2273. To learn more about JourneyCare services, click here.

Samantha McGlumphy, LCPC

Lynn Skubiszewski, LCSW

Araba McKinney, LSW, LMSW, ACHP-SW

Vanessa Cisneros, LCSW