By Peg Lopata, Contributing writer
Plymouth – It has been busy and challenging times for psychologists, including Lisa Ryan, 70. Not only are people getting sick in their bodies–minds are also being highly affected by this pandemic. For Ryan it’s an opportunity to make a difference by providing highly needed mental health support.
Ryan, who has a doctorate from Boston University in counseling psychology, has been a practicing psychologist for over thirty-five years.
“I wanted a career in which I could make a difference by helping others,” she said.
A New Way of Doing Things
Like many of us, Ryan is now meeting with people using online platforms, such as Zoom.
She said, “I miss the in-person contact. While teleconferencing is less limiting than I thought it would be, it cannot compare with working with a person present in my office.”
Ryan’s finding that she is not only busy as a psychologist–she’s also been doing Zoom tech support for some of her patients.
“Thank goodness Zoom is such a simple program,” she said.
Experience, there’s nothing else like it
Ryan not only has a great deal of experience as a psychologist, she has always enjoyed the variety of doing this kind of work.
“Patients are all different,” she explained. “It’s a job that requires creativity.”
Never quite knowing what problems will arise has honed Ryan’s skills.
“Prior to the pandemic, I also did Critical Incident Stress Debriefings,” said Ryan. “This meant going to sites where something stressful had happened. I have done psychological first aid in utility closets, loading docks, and airplane hangars.”
Circle of support
Workers in our hospitals and many others need mental health services as we cope with this pandemic. Ryan says she has more requests for service than she can provide.
“Like many other aspects of our healthcare system, there is more demand than there is capacity. The pandemic has highlighted this,” she said.
Ryan is seeing patients who have suffered serious losses: jobs, certainty, confidence in government, income, interpersonal contact and more. Healthcare workers have shouldered an especially high level of stress.
“There are enormous demands and sacrifices for healthcare workers taking care of COVID patients,” said Ryan. “My wish to make a difference during this pandemic is done by supporting health care workers caring for COVID patients. This is priority for me.”
Elders staying resilient
While the coronavirus has disproportionately killed more elders than any other age group, Ryan thinks many elders can come through this pandemic without post-pandemic psychological damage, perhaps even better than younger people will.
“Elders potentially have more resilience than younger people because we’ve lived through many experiences,” explained Ryan. “There is a certain confidence and a sense of mastery that comes from this—provided our health and social supports have remained intact.”
She knows resilience is strengthened by staying connected to others, being mentally stimulated, and keeping active. For some that means doing something creative.
This is the case for Ryan. She co-organizes a photography meet-up group.
“This helps me stay connected to others and doing something I love to do.”