An Interview Regarding COVID-19 With Erika Argueta and Cynthia Lopez, Kinship Center Child and Family Therapists

Erika Argueta's Interview:

What steps are you taking to protect your clients during this time, and what are you doing to ensure that you can continue to serve your clients?

When I was notified of the “shelter and place” protocol in the community, I was in a home visit providing services to a family. I was able to witness how this news had impacted my client and her family directly. The mother had shared during my visit that she had been “laid off” from work, and I remember her facial expression, trying to hold back tears, as she spoke about the financial stress this would have on her family and her three children. There was a lot of fear, worries, and anxiety around what was going to happen in the future. For this reason, I decided to plan an intentional transition from community and clinic-based services to “telehealth” services. So, I provided face-to-face therapy services to my clients and their families up to April 1, 2020 and I made sure to follow social distancing guidelines to minimize exposure. However, I knew I was running out of time and I needed to have a plan to continue to provide quality and meaningful services to my clients and their families during this time. For this reason, I created the “My Telehealth Binder.”  The purpose for the binder was to create predictability and allow my clients to continue to work on their treatment goals during this time. The binder included a universal agenda for structure, a feelings face check-in to provide a space for my clients to share and report on their feelings, a treatment goal activities section to continue to have clients make progress in treatment, and a free choice section to allow my client to have a voice in their sessions and engage in mastery and control. Currently, the plan is to continue to provide quality services to children and their families remotely due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Monterey County and during this time these binders will serve as a tangible tool and resource to help facilitate treatment.

Telehealth binders

How has the current situation changed your work?

My work has been greatly impacted by the current health crisis at multiple levels. I have been able to see first-hand how social inequality and low economic status contributes to the disparities among minority communities and the profound impact it has on children and families. Many of my families are not able to access resources or gather information in their own language during this crisis. As a result, I have taken the initiative to develop resource kits for my clients and their families with the help of our Program Assistant, Jessica Alcantar-Tinajero. We have created a bilingual kit (English and Spanish) of community resources in Monterey County to help assists families in need and help bridge the language barrier of cross-information in the community. The kits include information about community food banks, phone numbers of police departments, information about clinics, hospitals, crisis lines, and COVID-19, and resources for families in helping their children manage anxiety and fears during this time. However, I do have to highlight that many of my families have also been able to really embrace their resiliency and it’s amazing to see my clients and their families use their strengths and their creativity during these times to counter adversities and marginalization.

Bilingual resource kits

What message would you give to your clients, and Kinship Center clients, staff, and supporters, during this time?

I would like to remind everyone that it really takes a village to nurture and support each other, especially during times of adversity. We depend on each other for our coexistence and what impacts one person really impacts all of us directly and indirectly. Therefore, life has a funny way of reminding us that we are stronger in communities and we must continue to embrace living in harmony and honor each other’s strengths, gifts, and creativity. We must celebrate each other for unity and peace.

Despite current hardships, what is something/things you are grateful for?

The most valuable thing for me in my life is my family. My family has been my rock, my container, my crying pillow, my teachers, and my safe heaven. But, most importantly my family’s love has colored my life experiences and made me the person I am today. For this reason, I am grateful and my family celebrates me for who I am.

Anything else you would like to add?

I feel very blessed to be part of the Seneca/Kinship Center family, but most importantly I am honored to be stationed in the King City Outpatient Clinic in King City, CA working as a Bilingual Mental Health Therapist. I always knew that I wanted to make a difference. I might not be able to change the world, but I am creating consciousness around the way my families see their world, one family at a time. That is my contribution to this world.


Cynthia Lopez's Interview:

What steps are you taking to protect your clients during this time, and what are you doing to ensure that you can continue to serve your clients?

In order to protect my clients and families, I moved to telehealth services and working remotely. I have been working on putting together different coping skills activity boxes and schedules depending on the needs of my clients to continue meeting their individual and family goals. I have also been putting together a running list of different resources for parents regarding educational websites, information regarding COVID-19, and resources for food and economic assistance.

How has the current situation changed your work?

First, I’ve had to adjust to this new method of providing services via telehealth. In addition to telehealth services, I’ve had to collaborate with parents to be more involved in sessions and help prepare the clients with materials that may be needed before session. I’ve implemented schedules, coping skills, and different activities that will support my clients during this trying time. More specifically, with my younger clients, planning a routine and being more creative to maintain engagement.

What message would you give to your clients, and Kinship Center clients, staff, and supporters, during this time?

As we all experience this difficult time of uncertainty and fear, the message that I would provide is to ‘Just keep swimming’. This phrase from the movie Finding Nemo has provided me with comfort during trying times as it motivates me to keep pushing. It helps bring light to what is important during this time, which to me is safety, health, and the well-being of us all.

Despite current hardships, what is something/things you are grateful for?

I am grateful for the ability to continue working with my families to provide support and resources.

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