UT’s Anxiety and Stress Clinic will continue to offer three free therapy sessions this fall for anyone experiencing distress or anxiety due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“When the pandemic started, and certainly as it’s progressed, we’ve seen such an increase for everyone in anxiety, stress and depression,” clinic therapist Talya Feldman said. “It is a struggle in dealing with this totally new and terrifying reality.”
The clinic, a community-based training facility for the UT clinical psychology Ph.D. program, offers affordable group and individual therapy to manage anxiety, stress and other mood symptoms. The three free therapy sessions, which started in April, are available to anyone who lives in Texas, fills out the online form with an outline of issues to address and has internet access for remote, 50-minute therapy sessions.
Since there are only three sessions, therapists will focus on practicing tools tailored for each person’s issues, clinical psychology graduate student Feldman said. After the three sessions, University students can transfer their therapy to the Counseling and Mental Health Center, which also provides free sessions. Patients who are not UT students can be referred to outside counseling, Feldman said.
“A lot of people come in with really high anxiety and feel overwhelmed, (so) it’s hard to be present in the moment or be engaged with whatever they’re doing because they’re so pulled away by the thoughts that are causing anxiety,” Feldman said.
Feldman said patients will practice grounding themselves by focusing on the feelings of the earth beneath their feet or naming five things in the environment around them. This way, they will be more present in the moment as opposed to getting pushed around by intense waves of emotion, Feldman said.
Citlalli Soto-Ferate, a health and society freshman, said her daily interactions with friends and her dance studio helped her cope with anxiety. Since she has been isolating in a home with at-risk family members and her dance studio closed, Soto-Ferate said she now sometimes finds it hard to leave her bed. She said she is interested in the free therapy the clinic provides.
Soto-Ferate said she often worries about whether she will accidentally bring the virus home since her father and younger sister have asthma.
“It is definitely stressful and anxiety-inducing,” Soto-Ferate said. “I try my best to wear a mask every time I go out, and then I stay in my room a lot. I was definitely feeling very isolated and very scared because I don’t want to be the reason my parents die.”
Fay Medina, international relations and economics junior, said she has struggled with mental illness for years but is wary of signing up for the sessions because she is looking for long-term treatment.
“(The appointment) will be over something like Zoom, but I value that personal connection more,” Medina said. “(The therapy) feels a little bit too robotic, but I feel like it could be worth it if it weren’t just three sessions.”