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Counseling for COVID-19 anxiety

“Mariam”* came to the US a few years ago, fleeing war in East Africa. She learned English, got her driving license, and found a clerical job. But persistent traumatic memories impacted her daily life. She lost several members of her family in the conflict, including her parents who were killed when a bomb fell on their home one morning just after Mariam left the house. For a long time she blamed herself. “My mom usually went out with me in the morning, but that day she didn’t.”

She avoided thinking or talking about that day, but it kept invading her thoughts. She became depressed. When she came to ReWA, her counselor worked with her in her native language, slowly building trust so Mariam could eventually tell her story aloud for the first time, an important step in overcoming trauma.

The treatment her counselor used is called CETA (Common Element Treatment Approach). ReWA’s behavioral health counselors recently completed a six-month training in these techniques offered by Harborview Abuse and Trauma Center.

The training included two days of in-person class time learning the CETA techniques: Relaxation; Cognitive Coping; Exposure-Trauma Memories; Exposure-Live; Cognitive Restructuring; Behavioral Activation; and Problem Solving. The training cohort then met online for twice monthly calls wherein the counselors presented client cases, with client privacy protected. Together with the lead trainer, Minu Ranna-Stewart, a licensed social worker, they discussed treatment plans.

On the CETA training call last month, Mariam’s ReWA counselor presented her case. He said the usual treatment plan might include the client writing down their story as part of the Exposure-Trauma Memories exercise. But Miriam was not literate. So instead, they decided she would record herself retelling the story on her cell phone. 

“As Mariam recorded her memories, more details surface and we addressed them cognitively. Eventually, Mariam experienced a shift. She said she felt less distress as she recalled and spoke about her trauma. She realized she was not to blame for her parents’ death. Her trauma is finally is healing, and she can begin the process of grieving,” which he said can vary from culture to culture.

During this time of COVID-19 anxiety, wide-spread job loss, and social isolation, ReWA’s behavioral health program is serving King County’s immigrant and refugee communities. ReWA’s eight counselors speak Somali, Arabic, Amharic, Pashto, Dari, Farsi, and Turkish.

Call 253-246-4003 today to speak with a counselor.

*names changed