By Brett Peruzzi, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Mary Taber knows that in these stressful times, even when people can’t meet face to face, being able to talk to a trusted therapist is more important than ever. But Taber, executive director of Pastoral Counseling Centers of Massachusetts, with offices in Worcester and Westborough, is still making sure its clients get the services they need.
“The majority of our current clients have continued to meet with their therapists, though referrals are way down,” said Taber. “During this coronavirus pandemic, we have been closed for face-to-face, in-house sessions, but all 11 of our therapists have continued to work from home. They are using various means of teletherapy, from phone sessions – the majority – to Facetime, Zoom or Doxy, a telemedicine site.”
The team of therapists comes from a variety of clinical backgrounds, and includes social workers, psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, and a spiritual director.
Taber noted that one benefit of teletherapy is that office location and travel to the office are not issues.
“Typically, we see clients from all over central Massachusetts, averaging from about 70 to 80 towns and cities, but there is no limit to that range. Someone may even be out of state, but working near central Massachusetts is what brought them to us,” she said. “Though people might be more comfortable meeting in person with a counselor, particularly if it’s the first time, we know that times are challenging and there is a lot of stress and anxiety in all our lives.”
Clients do not have to be of any particular faith, nor have any spiritual tradition, Taber emphasized.
“We are a regular counseling agency, but offer the additional benefit, for those looking for it, of having all of our therapists comfortable bringing anyone’s faith into the session,” she explained. “Perhaps half of the folks coming to us are interested in utilizing their faith in working with the issues that brought them to us.”
For anyone hesitant to commit to an extended treatment plan, Taber assures potential clients that this is not necessary.
“There is no obligation to sign up for a commitment beyond the first session,” she stressed. “Having a trial session through telehealth might just be what would make a difference for someone during this pandemic.”
Taber also cautioned potential clients against allowing potential costs to keep them from seeking help. “Though most of our clients have health insurance with mental health coverage, we hope to not turn anyone away,” she said. “We can offer a sliding scale and some help from our assistance fund to those who are in need and self-pay. To help provide counseling to those with significant financial needs, we rely on donations from faith communities, businesses, civic groups and individuals.”
“Even before this pandemic, anxiety has probably been the most frequent reason for contacting us,” Taber noted. “However, we see people of all ages – we have three child therapists – and for many reasons.”
These include depression, bullying, relationship issues, sexual abuse, alcohol and drug issues, separation and divorce, grief and loss, chronic illness, PTSD, parenting concerns and behavioral problems.
Referrals were down in late March and April near the beginning of the pandemic but have been increasing since then.
”Fortunately, all insurance companies have extended their reimbursement of teletherapy at least through September, Taber said. “Two of the major companies have said they will continue it indefinitely and there is conversation that ‘telehealth is here to stay’”.
“Regardless of where anyone is coming from or whatever their level of stress or need is,” she noted. “We welcome the opportunity to be a helpful tool in their dealing with it.”
Pastoral Counseling Centers of Massachusetts may be reached at 508-366-4000 to leave a confidential message. Additional information is available at https://www.pccofma.org.