Virtual Therapy Cheat Sheet

Why Virtual? 

  • Whether you are receiving Virtual therapy, exclusively or an adjunct to office visits, it is an easy way to get the support your child needs. Virtual therapy (or Telehealth) is similar to Skype or FaceTime, and allows you to have access to your therapist from the comfort of your own home.
  • At first when I started offering virtual therapy as an option for clients, I was worried it would feel cold, impersonal, or disconnected.  I was also nervous that online therapy sessions would keep me from providing the best services to the young people and families I work with, but I was completely wrong!  
  • Most clients say when they are in the comfort of their own home they feel more relaxed, regulated, and able to do their therapeutic work.  Some clients actually say the connection can be better than in the office. Virtual sessions are very similar to the therapy services you receive in the office.  The good news is there is no confusing software to download and all you need is an internet connection, web camera, and some headphones. 

How do I start? 

  • All online counseling sessions will be held on doxy.me (unless there is a technical issue at which point we may switch to Zoom), which is similar to Skype or FaceTime but is a secure HIPAA Compliant program.  A few minutes before the session click the link below and wait for the session to start login go to: https://doxy.me/chilhowee
  • Login Name: Enter your initials
  • You will not need to download any special apps or programs, however you will need to enable your webcam and microphone.  You will use this same link each therapy session. 

Tips for a great Online Therapy appointment:  

  • Make sure you are in a quiet environment and free of distractions 
  • Download a white noise app and place it outside of the room for privacy and confidentiality 
  • Use headphones for better call audio 
  • Make sure you are using a fast internet speed or Ethernet cable 
  • Close out of unused programs 
  • Use the latest version of your web browser 
  • Adjust the lighting so you can be seen clearly (lighting in front of you, not behind).

An Open Letter to Clients

I am writing to you all to discuss the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that is continuing to spread in the United States.  First and foremost, I (Emma) care about the mental and physical health of all of my clients. I understand that you might be feeling more anxious about this illness than ever before. I would like you to know that CFC is committed to supporting you, and our community, during this time. 

As such, I am taking the necessary steps to protect you and your family from the COVID-19 virus. Your sessions are now offered via a secure telehealth platform. Telehealth services are an alternative way for clinicians to continue meeting with clients outside of the traditional face to face approach. Doxy.Me is a leading tool for video sessions and is HIPAA compliant. In order to use this program, your computer must have a microphone and webcam (either built in or external) OR you can use a phone or tablet. 

As of March 16th, 2020, Maryville city schools are closed from 03/20 – 03/31. That means that we will begin the process of switching to the telehealth platform starting 3/23/20. When Maryville city schools re-open, we can resume face to face sessions. I understand that some of you prefer to do your therapy in person. If this is the case, please let me (Emma) know. In person sessions will be available for some cases, just as long as you do not have any symptoms of illness and are not at high risk.

Going forward, please practice regular hand washing and cover your mouth when coughing during sessions. Do not come to the office if you are sick or have symptoms such as a dry cough, fatigue, or muscle aches. There will be no charged cancellation fees due to illness. 

Please reach out to me with any questions or concerns. For now, we’ll keep calm and carry on to the best of our abilities. My hope is that we will be back to normal soon, but in the meantime, we will make the best of our resources and stay connected!

Best Regards,

Emma Poole, MFTI


UPDATE: Maryville City Schools have announced that they will be extending the closing until April 6th, 2020. CFC will stay closed until MCS reopens.

Halloween Safety Tips

It is that time of year folks. The leaves are beginning to change, the sweaters, scarves, and boots are making their seasonal debut, and now the temps are finally dropping (thanks to the Tennessee heat wave). Halloween is in the air.

If you are anything like me, you are struggling to come up with a costume. In fact, that is all I have been thinking about before our churches big community Trunk or Treat event. However, I wanted to take a moment to talk about something so essential for Halloween – safety. It is so important to kid’s development and emotional well being to ensure their safety as much as humanly possible.

The American Academy of Pediatrics published some incredible tips for Halloween safety. In my research to provide you with a list, I utilized their resources as well as other pages, and word of mouth. Below are some of my tips from a mental health perspective.

Stick Together

Halloween provides a plethora of opportunities for family connection: family trick or treating, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, Halloween movie nights, bonfires and more.

  • Pumpkin carving is a great family bonding activity. If your kids are too little to carve, they can draw a face with markers then the parents can do the cutting. I love these kid-friendly stencils provided by HGTV. To increase safety with little ones, you can also consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin.
  • When trick or treating, a responsible adult should accompany young children. If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. All groups should stay together and communicate where they are going. Carrying a cellphone for quick communication can be helpful if someone gets separated.

Think about your costume 

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. This helps you to keep an eye on them in the night to keep them out of danger. If needed, consider adding reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
  • When choosing an outfit, consider carefully if the costume you or your child is wearing will foster misconceptions about people with mental illness or demonize people who struggle with such disorders.

Beware of Trauma Triggers

Often Halloween can bring up many triggers of past traumatic experiences. This can be through movies, shows, costumes, decorations, and more. The violence depicted may trigger you or your child. It is important to be able to recognize the triggers in an effort to manage them.

To help you manage your own or your child’s triggers you can:

  1. Connect with your Support System — Spend time doing fun activities with your friends and family. Ask for their help during triggering situations.
  2. Avoid Triggering Activities — Limit exposure to things that may bother you or your child. For instance, watch a comedy instead of a scary movie or avoid going trick or treating if it is upsetting. There are lots of activities that you can do at home with friends or family to keep everyone emotionally safe.
  3. Engage in Calming Practices — While you can’t avoid everything related to Halloween, you can utilize mindfulness to decrease stress. See also some of my favorite mindfulness activities!
  4. Find a Mental Health Professional — Working with a trained clinician can help you to identify triggers and develop healthy coping techniques. A mental health professional can also help you to work through process past trauma in a safe, supportive environment. CFC is here for you if you need a mental health professional to speak with.

Top 3 Mindfulness Activities

5-4-3-2-1 or “Five Senses” Exercise

This exercise is called “five senses,” and provides guidelines on practicing mindfulness quickly in nearly any situation. All that is needed is to notice something you are experiencing with each of the five senses.

Notice five things that you can see.

  • Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Pick something that you don’t normally notice, like a shadow or a small crack in the concrete.

Notice four things that you can feel.

  • Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your pants, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on.

Notice three things you can hear.

  • Take a moment to listen, and note three things that you hear in the background. This can be the chirp of a bird, the hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road.

Notice two things you can smell.

  • Bring your awareness to smells that you usually filter out, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. Perhaps the breeze is carrying a whiff of pine trees if you’re outside, or the smell of a fast food restaurant across the street.

Notice one thing you can taste.

  • Focus on one thing that you can taste right now, at this moment. You can take a sip of a drink, chew a piece of gum, eat something, notice the current taste in your mouth, or even open your mouth to search the air for a taste.

This is a quick and relatively easy exercise to bring you to a mindful state quickly. If you only have a minute or two, or don’t have the time or tools to try a body scan or fill out a worksheet, the five senses exercise can help you bring awareness to the current moment in a short amount of time.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a method that helps relieve physical tension in an effort to decrease emotional stress. If a body is physically relaxed, your body and mind begin to feel less anxious. This can also help with difficulty sleeping.

  • In progressive muscle relaxation, you tense a group of muscles beginning with your feet and moving upwards. When you breathe in, tense the first muscle group for 4-10 seconds. Relax the muscles in conjunction with your breathing out. Keep deep breathing for 10-20 seconds and then repeat with the next muscle group.

After you have learned how to tense and relax each muscle group, here’s something else to try. When you have a very tense muscle, you can practice tensing and relaxing that muscle area without going through the whole routine.

The Body Scan

Another popular mindfulness exercise is called the Body Scan. It is also easily accessible for most beginners.

  • Step 1: The Body Scan begins with the participants lying on their backs with their palms facing up and their feet falling slightly apart. This exercise can also be done sitting on a comfortable chair with feet resting on the floor;
  • Step 2: The facilitator then asks the participants to lie very still for the duration of the exercise, and move with awareness if it becomes necessary to adjust their position;
  • Step 3: Participants begin by bringing awareness to the breath, noticing the rhythm, the experience of breathing in and expelling out;
  • Step 4: Next, the facilitator guides attention to the body: how it feels, the texture of clothing against the skin, the contours of the surface on which the body is resting, the temperature of the body and the environment;
  • Step 5: The facilitator guides awareness to the parts of the body that are tingling, sore, or feeling particularly heavy or light, s/he asks the participants to note any areas of their body where they don’t feel any sensations at all or are hypersensitive.

A typical Body Scan runs through each part of the body, paying special attention to the way each area feels. The scan usually moves systematically through the body, e.g. starting at the feet and moving upwards..

Those are my favorite mindfulness activities. I often use these with my clients to manage anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms. Feel free to contact us to learn more about ways to increase mindfulness in your life!