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an article by
Nicoletta Pallotta, MD, LCSW
CEO & Founder

As the much anticipated ‘return to work’ takes hold… my overwhelming concern has been once the pandemic was under control and social distance has been lifted, how would I manage our physical locations, for our clients and the 150 therapists that work for BCS Group.

I not only need to consider everyone’s safety, but also the new ‘norm’ for our practice, many clients and therapists have expressed a strong desire to continue with our tele-health model.

When COVID first forced me to shut down the physical locations, my focus abruptly shifted from assigning rooms to schedule our clients, to providing secure, Live Video services. The upside to this change gave us the ability to extend our hours, care for more clients, and hire more therapist. But also, it gave us the capability to reach out to more remote areas, where clients and therapist that previously may not have been able to connect with us, now could.

As I plan for the opening of locations and develop a real sense of the future balance between in-person and online, I decided the best way to forecast the future was to engage directly with our therapist and clients, to see what their preferences really are.

I was really surprised to learn that most therapists are more interested in the remote model, as are our clients, they are really enjoying tele-mental health; the convenience and flexibility, generally they feel their therapy sessions have been more relaxing from the comfort of their homes, along with not needing to arrange childcare, no more commute or waiting rooms. Overall, online counseling is a lot less stressful.

I think the pandemic helped us all realize that remote care is here to stay.


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An article written by our Founder and CEO,
Nicoletta Pallotta, MD, LCSW

14 months of a Pandemic no one saw coming and no one was prepared for. I have seen clients struggle with social distancing, isolation, struggling with remote working, and/or home schooling their children. We have all been mentally challenged with having no physical contact and not being able to see our friends and loved ones. And of course, the devastating reality of some of us losing loved ones to Covid-19.

I was committed to being one constant in the lives of our clients, to continuing to see every single one of them that needed us, but also being available for so many, many more that reached out for our help. These unique and stressful times pushed us to do psychotherapy in a different way that we were used too. Our roles became overwhelming with responsibilities, with day-in and day-out struggles for my amazing team, who’s dedication and compassion came shinning though day after day after day.

What does the future of mental health look like?
“I believe that we don’t know the full impact of the pandemic, and that many people are still in survival mode.”

Many people are still living day to day, coping with the devastation of personal loss and financial concerns as best they can. Mental services are now more needed and demand than ever before. We still don’t fully know the consequences of social isolation and how it has impacted us and what effect it might have on our children and their futures. We will have to wait and see.

Tele-mental health is here to stay. Technology helps us reach more people who need us, particularly in remote areas, and our therapists turn up every day to help those who need us. And I am here to support them every step of the way.

The future is brighter – I am sure of it.


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Rhoda Rabkin. Mentor & Friend.

March is Women’s History Month. I think the best way to celebrate this month is to honor a woman in your life that made an impact that changed who you are today.

My Rhoda is gone almost 16 years.

Not one day goes by that I do not think of her. Rhoda was a constant force in my life, she taught me to always trust your instincts and there is nothing you cannot do, and to always follow my passion.

Since she left me as her legacy, it is my role in this world is to help other women by inspiring them the way that she inspired me. I wouldn’t be the person I am if it wasn’t for her. Thank you Rhoda.


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I always wanted to build our BCS Counseling Group to incorporate Telehealth. But the onset of the pandemic led to a rapid uptake and escalation in use of virtual care.

Who knew that from March 2020, Telehealth was going to be our only form of providing psychotherapy to our clients, luckily we were set up to do it from day one, and my great team stepped up and helped inform, educate and connect our clients.

Since day 1 of Covid-19, I have been on the front lines. As an essential worker, I had to turn up day after day to keep things running, manage my team, emergencies and deal with unforeseen crises, and there have been a lot.

I manage a team of over 150 therapists, my door is always open if they need me, they have shared stories of overwhelming anxiety, depression, stress for the future, loss of loved ones. Weddings being cancelled, graduations and holiday gatherings cancelled. Or just the little things, like the inability to visit a loved one or hug a friend. These are the things that makes us feel human, make us feel loved and needed.

I have been asked on many occasions ‘are you getting burned out from all this?’
my answer: “yes of course”
It is a very traumatic and trying time, but at the end of the day, I am blessed to do what I love, I’m in a position to help people, so this is what I do.

On a lighter note, our clients and therapists have had to create spaces for privacy for the Live Video Sessions. Some are using bathrooms, cars, bedrooms, even closets. Wherever you can get comfortable with your device and an internet connection, that’s the new norm for the therapist’s couch.

We all needed to find a little humor in this difficult time, and although we’re all in this together, no two stories are the same. One of my clients showed up at session looking quite different to our ‘normal’ sessions. When I questioned her if she was okay, she started laughing. “I am not wearing makeup and I do not feel like fixing my hair! I feel free.’ We laughed. Another client was crying and sad because her father was COVID positive, then I hear a loud flushing noise… it was the toilet flushing! The new norm!

When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, a lot of things will go back to the way there were ‘before’. We will stop wearing masks, we’ll pack into restaurants and we’ll hug family and friends at the drop of a hat! But I believe Telehealth is here to stay. I expect to see continued expansion in telehealth services. It’s proven to be a very effective way to provide care, especially for those who can’t easily get to their provider’s office. We can increase the hours we can connect with our clients, as Therapists and clients no longer need to factor in a commute or ‘office hours’.

Clients are finding a newfound freedom; flexibility and convenience, and Therapist who may live in more rural or remote areas, can now build their client base on secure and easy to use platforms.

I am committed to helping as many clients and team members as possible through this pandemic, and if I have to work 7 days a week (which I do), I am happy to do it. My mission has always been to give back to a community that has given me so much love over the years. Mental health is essential to an individual’s well-being, and is fundamental to a healthy, balanced life, which is essential during these difficult times.

Nicoletta Pallotta, MD, LCSW
CEO & Founder


 

If you would like to talk to someone, a trained, qualified and compassionate therapist, please contact us now:

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Finding time to focus on self-care can seem impossible, especially during a pandemic with the demands of work and family life.

Time for yourself is time away from your daily list of chores, responsibilities and commitments. These things will usually still be there even if you take 15 minutes or even an hour to yourself.

Research shows that people who regularly take a little time to themselves, and are comfortable with that time alone, experience increased happiness, better stress management and lower rates of depression.

Unplug.

Step away from social media, email and phone calls, and instead read a book or magazine, go for a walk, or simply stare out the window and daydream. Our devices have become an entertainment crutch, and the go-to when we have a minute to spare.

Finish Work on Time.

This is one of the simplest things you can do when you need a little personal time. This had become much more difficult since we are all now working from home, the end-of-day has become fluid and the result is self-care time has decreased or vanished. If this is you, make it a point to stop work exactly on time at least once a week, and make that saved time self-care time. Practicing some sort of self-care, even once a week will make a difference.

Check in on Yourself.

Take a minute throughout your day to stop, just for a moment, to notice what is happening within and around you. Taking just a moment to reset your mind can help keep you balanced and happier.

Connect.

Reach out to others, sometimes a chat with a friend is all the self-care you need. If you feel you may need help with emotional support, consider a professional counselor to have your thoughts and feelings heard.



 

If you’d like to speak to a friendly, fully qualified and licensed Therapist, contact us through the form below. It’s completely confidential, and covered by most insurances.

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For billing/insurance purposes, we must have your legal name exactly as it appears on your insurance ID Card
This question is optional and confidential. It will help us connect you with the therapist most suited to your needs.

 



 


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In one way or another, the COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s lives.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic has triggered a wave of mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, social isolation or just the general stress that’s a result of living through COVID-19, we’re all feeling it.

I am a mental health professional with over 35 years’ experience, dealing with all forms of mental health care – yet I am no different.

When the New York State shut down all non-essential offices in March, life became very different for me. It was challenging. My practice in Dyker Heights, Neighborhood Counseling Center, is an Article 31 so was considered an essential business, therefore we needed to stay open.

My primary consideration for the past 9 months has been to keep my staff and our clients safe. It kept me up at nights, trying to work out a schedule that would allow as many employees as possible to work from home, while still manning the office for essential in-person scheduling.

I decided to change the office hours to 10 to 6 Monday to Friday and Saturday 9 to 5, with online counseling offering a wider range of appointment hours. I reflect on how lucky we were that we had already introduced Online Counseling to our range of services, we were already set up technically, we just needed to demonstrate to our clients, that online counseling was as affective as in person.

Most people were relieved that they could continue with their Therapist from the safety of their own home, but some still needed in office services.

I am the only clinician to remain on site every day, to assist with clinical consultation, review new admissions and supervise my staff. I am constantly doing crises intervention with new and existing clients, and i have been, and will continue to work 7 days a week until the pandemic is over.

We actioned strict CDC guidelines, yet I found myself constantly worrying that the support staff at the office was safe and managing the emotional stress of home and work life. I encouraged self-care, I bought them lunch, made sure they had enough supplies and assisting them with their anxiety.

The anxiety level among our clients and the general population imploded. Existing appointments continued and the requests for new appointment increased like never before. We had also made the decision to expand our BCS Group Practice to the 5 boroughs. There are so many people who need help, but most local private practices closed their doors.  I leaned on my management team to keeps things running as smoothly as possible, and our intake team to help communicate and facilitate appointments via our secure online platform.

I also needed to support our therapists who were working remotely, helping them emotionally and supporting them professionally with issues they were experiencing with their clients.

I was taking care of everyone around me, but also, I had to take care of myself. I had to remind myself that I am in a high-risk demographic for Covid-19, having asthma and high blood pressure, it was imperative I protect myself from getting sick so I can take care of those around me. I became extremely proactive, making sure that I, and all my staff followed the rules. Wearing a face mask, staying six feet apart. Constantly sanitizing, not touching my face. But most important I eat right, exercise and get enough sleep.

On a personal note, my daughter is in her last year of college, my anxiety about her safety, and her anxiety about my safety skyrocketed. Thankfully her college is doing classes online, but she still lives on campus. Like many during this pandemic, she adopted a cat. My job as a mother is to make her feel safe and help her through this difficult time.

2020 has been a challenging year for most, but I know i am one of the lucky ones. My family, my staff and I are currently safe and well. We are looking forward to Christmas and the new year. So many people around the world are not so lucky, our thoughts are with them as we head into the festive season. We will continue to serve our community as best we can, staying safe and encouraging others to do the same.

Happy Holidays to you all.


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We asked our experts for advice about ways to minimize stress and help everyone in the family feel as good as possible about this unusual holiday season.

1. Don’t wait to make plans

Give everyone time to make good decisions and get comfortable with them, especially if they represent a big change in family traditions.

2. Discuss house rules in advance

You need clear communication, maybe with everybody getting on a call beforehand and laying out who’s comfortable with what.

3. Stay the course

It can be helpful have a script to use if someone isn’t respecting the rules: “My mom says I’m not allowed to give you a hug this year but we can wave!”

4. Give the kids a voice

What would they like to cook?
What games do they want to play?
Do they want to set aside time for favorite movies or listen to special music?

Being part of that decision-making process helps offset some of those negative feelings.

5. Create a safe space to express disappointment

Things will be different this year, family and friends of all ages have expectations for the holiday, many of which will not happen and so create disappointments. Keeping everyone, including your kids in the conversation and letting them know they are heard, can help them feel respected even in situations that don’t go the way they want.

 


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Here is a list of things in 2020 which I am thankful for – my Covid-19 gratitude list:

1. This pandemic and lockdown has given me enough time to be able to relax, rest, and think about my life, my priorities, my beliefs, my goals.

2. This situation has made me realize who my true friends are.

3. “How are you?” means something to me now.

4. I am now truly focused on the present.

5. Every morning I am grateful that my family and friends are healthy.

7. Money is needed, of course, but the pandemic has taught me how little we actually need to have a fulfilling life.

9. I’ve learned to cherish things I took for granted earlier.

10. I now see that nature can easily exist without man, but man wouldn’t last very long without nature, which is a humbling revelation.


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It is normal to feel stressed or overwhelmed at this moment in time. Emotions may include anxiety, fear, a feeling of being out of control.

Taking care of yourself is extremely important now more than ever. Here are a few tips:

Plan your day: As tempting as it might be to stay in pyjamas all day, regular routines are essential for our identity, self-confidence and purpose.

Get physical: Move more every day. Explore different ways of adding physical movement and activity to your day and find some that work best for you.

Relax: Relaxing and focusing on the present can help improve your mental health and lighten negative feelings.

Stay in-touch: This could be anything, from sharing a cup of tea over video, playing an online game together, or simply sending a supportive text-message.

Remember yourself: Take time to reflect and practice self-compassion: Mindfulness techniques may also help you focus on the present rather than dwelling on unhelpful thoughts.

Improve your sleep: Wind down before bed by avoiding using your phone, tablet, computer or TV for an hour before bedtime.

Changes in your emotional state that become persistent or interfere with daily life may need a little extra self-care:

  • Trouble focusing on daily tasks
  • Persistent, heightened anxiety
  • Elevated emotional state
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Fear for family or your future

If you are experiencing any of the above, and feel a little extra support is needed, talk to us. Schedule an appointment with one of our full trained Online Counselors.

For billing/insurance purposes, we must have your legal name exactly as it appears on your insurance ID Card

(Please write N/A if you do not currently have one)


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Self-care is a regular, intentional process of devoting oneself to protecting and sustaining mental health.

Small things make a difference.

When we are busy, it’s easy to let self-care fall by the wayside. Or if we make too big a plan, we might give up if we can’t find the time and energy to see it through. Break rituals are activities that we embed into our day to help us stay calibrated and avoid mental overload. We can’t falsely promise ourselves that we’ll relax once something gets scratched off our lists, because in the meantime, 10 new things will pop up. Just as when we neglect ourselves there is a cumulative effect on our health, the same is true when we make a regular point to nourish our mind, body and souls.

Self-care comes in many shapes and sizes.

There’s no one size-fits-all formula. Key activities include lifestyle medicine, creative pursuits, hobbies, time with loved ones, and positive mental dialogue. Science shows the tremendous value in all of these activities to protect and bolster mental health. Engage in a process of reflection (therapists, coaches and loved ones can be helpful in co-creating ideas) that helps you identify high impact activities that can be woven into your routines.

Self-care starts with giving yourself permission.

Many of us are uncomfortable with the idea of taking time for ourselves. We are used to taking care of everyone else and it’s a big shift to actually focus on you. It feels counterintuitive. This can demonstrate your strong sense of values and pride in serving others, but it can also tie into a deeper martyr complex or sense of unworthiness. When we give ourselves the green light and understand that we are worth our own investment because we are important, we are more likely to maximize the benefits of self-care. You must give yourself permission to take care of yourself, and make sure you are taking break rituals everyday. Sustainability is everything: You are worth it.