The marriage and family therapy program in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Education and Human Sciences is supporting families and those who may not have access to the assistance they need during the coronavirus pandemic through a new website, Coming Together for Wellness.
Nebraska visitors to the website can sign up for a free 30-minute consultation with a therapist in the university’s marriage and family therapy program, find social media support groups, and discover other tips and resources to strengthen their mental health and resilience. Project leaders say they hope this website can be a resource for anyone needing assistance, but especially those in rural communities who may not have access to other mental health services.
“Ultimately, this quarantine is difficult and puts families at risk,” said Cody Hollist, associate professor in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies and faculty in the marriage and family therapy program. “People are more stressed in general, and the ripple effects of that stress are what we’re most concerned about and what we want to try to help.”
Those ripple effects include individual and relationship struggles and, in some cases, increased instances of self-harm, domestic violence and substance abuse. Hollist noted that talking with human service agencies around the state, they are already starting to see some of these effects come to fruition as people are struggling with many issues.
“For someone battling addiction, the stresses of the current environment can make that battle worse and leave them without their usual coping strategies like hanging out with friends,” Hollist said.
The Coming Together for Wellness website includes resources and activities for individuals struggling with addiction. It also offers an inventory of recovery programs that feature online support groups. If someone wants to talk to a therapist, they have easy access to set up a consultation.
“We’re not trying to do crisis intervention,” Hollist said. “This is designed as more of a first step, and then we can connect someone in need with the appropriate support systems.”
The marriage and family therapy program is a master’s-level program designed to prepare future marriage and family therapists for work as ethical, systemic and trauma-informed mental health clinicians. Many graduates go on to work as therapists in private or group practice, or within agency, hospice or hospital settings.
An important part of the training required for master’s students are the skills acquired as a therapist trainee in the Couple and Family Clinic, within the university’s Family Resource Center. Training also includes 12-month internship placements in both urban and rural settings, which leads students to acquire a minimum of 500 direct client contact hours.
Collaborators on the Coming Together for Wellness project come from the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies and the Trauma and Resilience Explored Lab in the College of Education and Human Sciences.