Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Now Open

Good news, folks- The State of Oregon Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is now ready to take applications!

This is a special form of Unemployment Assistance that allows those who are self-employed, "gig workers" such as people who drive for Uber or are a 1099 contractor (aka doing freelance work) to apply for unemployment assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.

Go here to access the Unemployment Dept's page:

https://govstatus.egov.com/ui-benefits/CARES

There is a paper form that you will need to either fill out and sign on a desktop, or print out. It can be either faxed in or mailed at the contact info on the bottom. (I'd advise faxing, personally, if you can get through.)

Don't delay- there will only be so many funds available for this round of assistance!


Thursday, April 9, 2020

Updated Resources for Current Times

I have spent the past couple of weeks tweaking, revising, updating and adding to some resource pages, here on my website.

You can now find COVID-19 Pandemic-specific help on my "Resources" page. This includes ways to manage stress or traumatic anxiety, find local resources, ideas for creative healing projects you can do at home, and more. There's also an online version of my Crisis Services Handout. Visit it here:

Resources Page

I've also put together a list of self-help resources for common (non-urgent) issues, including anxiety, depression, grief and loss, Eating Disorder symptoms, and more:

Self-Help Page

Feel free to share this information with anyone who can benefit.

I am also currently available for online (phone and video) appointments for State of Oregon residents, ages 12 and up. See my "About" info to learn more about what type of approaches I use in therapy, and what areas I specialize in. I am able to bill a variety of insurances, and I take OHP on a case by case basis.

Wishing you all health, peace and well-being!






Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Virtual Online Meetings- What You Need to Know

As we navigate the new landscape of 2020 during the current pandemic, when so many people are obliged to stay home due to Social Distancing, it can feel intimidating to shift to meeting with others online. Here's a "quick start" guide to get you comfortable with understanding and using technology for connecting with your therapist, clients, employer, friends, family, etc.


  • Treat it like a "normal" appointment

You will get much more quality and overall benefit from your appointments and "live" social engagements if you treat them with as much value as if you were still meeting face-to-face. It can also lend structure to your routines, and improve self-esteem, to get yourself ready for your day online- having your coffee or tea ready, going through a morning routine as though you were headed out for the day. 
All of this may seem awkward at first, but once you and the other person/people have settled in to the online format, this tends to melt away, and instead you are able to focus more on relating to others.

  • Types of online and virtual communication 

-2-Way Video Calling.
Most cell phones and messaging apps now have a person-to-person video function. Each of them work a little differently. Keep in mind that only device-to-device calls are "private", especially if they use certain privacy apps such as Signal. Social Media apps (Facebook Messenger for example) can NOT be considered private, and are still under the Social Media site's terms and conditions. Google, to date, has made available a private version of Hangouts Meet that can be used for therapy sessions.


-Virtual Meetings/Groups. You may meet with people at work, have a virtual appointment with your doctor's office, therapist, etc., attend an online event, or even hang out with your friends and watch a movie together using a Virtual Meeting platform. Zoom is the most common right now, but there's others (doxy, GoToMeeting, private platforms used by online health care management systems, and more.) These generally feature an event organizer or presenter who runs the meeting, and can control the settings- but you can also potentially share directly with all the other people in the group in real time. 


-Virtual Presentations and Webinars. These use similar setups as Virtual Meetings (the alternate of GoToMeeting is literally called GoToWebinar), however they focus on a one-way demonstration from the presenter to an audience. These are used for work-related trainings, presentations or classes by teachers or topic experts; sometimes for entertainment purposes too. They usually include a way to send questions or comments to the presenter in real time, such as a text box. 

Some Presentations will only be offered "Live"- that is, you have to plan to access them during a specific day and time- and some offer a limited-time "replay", or will store the video recording to watch later at any time. Read the description of the event to find out whether recordings will be available, and whether these will be for free or for sale- every event varies! 


-Facebook and Youtube, etc. Live. This is essentially a Virtual Presentation hosted on a Social Media platform, but it's a combination of Presentation and video calling, since anyone on the Social Media site can start a Live Stream, and choose who to broadcast it to. These also may or may not be recorded. 
You can use the Social Media framework to hold discussions, submit your content to the presenter, or ask them questions during the Live Stream. 


-Text. You can hold a person-to-person or group chat on phone text, or over Social Media. This isn't the same as talking "live", as people sometimes do other things while they're texting, and take varied amounts of time to respond. Some virtual therapy and support companies, such as Better Help or 7 Cups, advertise text-based communication with your therapist or helper- but few companies offer text-only therapy sessions. 


-Phone Appointments. Most of us are familiar with how this one works. As mentioned, phone appointments are preferred when you can't- or don't want to- have a video call with your therapist.

  • Why use video and not just phone or text?

As a therapist, I often encounter people wanting to just talk on the phone, or sometimes text, instead of meet virtually face-to-face. These folks might feel less comfortable, or uneasy, about video calling for a variety of reasons. 
However, professional organizations such as the American Counseling Association encourage video calling over voice or text wherever possible. Why? Well, it's been documented that over 50% of communication is expressed non-verbally, as is explained in the article HERE. So limiting communication to phone only might miss out on a lot! And with texting, which doesn't have streaming face or voice, you're getting even less. It could be easy to miss out on some important clues to how a client is doing if we can't see or even hear them- and that means a lower-quality appointment for you. 
While I would never force someone who is video-phobic to have to use video calling, it's worth tackling some short-term, mild discomfort to try something new- and possibly exciting! Remember, you're always in charge of how, and how much, you communicate online.

  • Plan Ahead - space, time, privacy

Due to "shelter in place" and quarantine demands, many of us may be at home for the time being, without access to the ideal space. Family members, kids, pets, and so on can pose potential interruptions to a private video or phone appointment. Think ahead about where you could have some quiet space to yourself, to better focus on your time online. Do you have a guest room, walk-in closet, sun porch, or garage you can make use of? Can you plan to use your car as a "phone booth" (whether you drive it someplace else or not)? Could you go someplace outside, in good weather? If you don't have space to yourself, can you schedule your time with family members so they can let you have the living room or a bedroom to yourself for your appointment? A little planning ahead can make a world of difference in being able to hear, focus well, and make good use of your call.

  • Set your tools up well to have a great call. 

There are a few basics to setting up your equpiment, that can make a world of difference in your virtual communications:

-Connection. The more reliable your phone or Internet connection, the better it can handle smooth, easy to see and hear video and voice. Cell phone quality varies by phone, carrier, and how strong the cell signal is in your area. For Internet, quality goes in order from coffee-shop or other public Wi-Fi connections being the least reliable, to "high speed" cable or fiber Internet on your own private line being the most reliable. Try to use the most reliable connection you can afford or borrow, for important appointments and meetings. 

-Dedicated Phone/Tablet Spot. If using a hand held device, you have a place set aside to park the device you will be using, so that the image isn't shaky. You have it set up vertically so the camera is upright (and your image won't be coming out sideways.) 

-Device Readiness. You've made sure your device settings are all ready to go (Internet connection is on, other texts or conversations are muted, desktop camera is active, other tabs or apps that might be open are closed, etc.) 
-Image Readiness. You've set the camera at your eye level, so that the person looking at you will see you making eye contact with them. You're sitting at least 12 inches away from the camera, so that your face won't be distorted. You have enough lighting that the other person can see you clearly (hint: setting a light behind your monitor or device can help light up your face. You can bounce it off a wall to get softer lighting and prevent eye strain).

  • Get ready for "Tech Check"

Technology industry folk are familiar with this custom- arriving a few minutes ahead of a planned meeting or appointment, so that there is time to check your phone or Internet connection, test out your call or meeting app, and make sure everything's working as it should. If you're not sure whether your planned setup will work, try testing it out on a friend or family member before your appointment, and leave time to trouble-shoot or find ways around problems.

  • Considerations for group meetings

With most group meetings, the person presenting or organizing the group will control how the group interacts. You can trust them to tell you when, and how, it is appropriate to talk, ask questions, or provide input. You should always be able to get a hold of the event organizer to ask for help. 

If you are on a group meeting, such as on Zoom, you will have control over your audio (muted to everyone or un-muted to everyone), your video (everyone else can see you/no one else can see you), and text question/answer. Zoom also has a feature that lets you draw on a whiteboard and share it with others. 
It's polite to keep your audio and video "off" unless it's encouraged by the event organizer. When you have these "on", the meeting app will share your screen on top of everyone else's when you are talking. So it's important to know when to take turns! 
Texting questions goes into its own container, so this should always be available even if you don't get to talk out loud. This also lets you text a question or comment to the group whenever you like, and the presenter or group organizer can review these during question-and-answer time.

  • Considerations for Ergonomics

Since so many events and activities are moving online, you may find yourself spending a lot more time in front of your device or desktop computer. This can quickly get tiring if you aren't used to it. You can read about ergonomics for computing HERE. Basically, think about how you're positioning your body, if it's comfortable for long periods, whether you are getting up and moving enough in between work or visiting sessions, and how you can help yourself reduce eye strain.

  • And Please Remember- try to stay patient and be flexible as we adjust to this new "normal"- your efforts will be well worth it, and much appreciated! 


Friday, March 13, 2020

HEALTH & SAFETY UPDATE - MARCH 15, 2020

Due to the current recommendations from the CDC regarding "Social Distancing" to help reduce the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, I will be making a few alterations to my practice for the time being. Please review this update, and contact me directly with any questions or concerns. 

At this time, I will continue seeing individual therapy clients face-to-face as it is practical. My office is already equipped with an air purifier, and I clean and sanitize surfaces and follow protocols as recommended. If you see me behaving any differently than usual (such as not agreeing to shake hands), please understand that it is in the best interest of this risk reduction protocol. 

If you are feeling ill or showing symptoms of an illness, you're encouraged to stay home and avoid coming to sessions. Please notify me as soon as you can, if you are unable to attend due to illness. You will never face penalties for canceling your sessions due to illness or emergencies.  

If you still want to do a session despite signs of illness, or feel uncomfortable about going out in person, I am happy to offer remote appointments (phone or video calling). Please leave enough advance notice so that I can make arrangements for this- at least a few hours in advance. I'm also available to take new remote clients living within the state of Oregon. 

As of this edit, I am going to cancel any in-person meetings for new or ongoing therapeutic and support groups/events, until it seems safe to lift the cancellation. I hope to still offer events later this month/year through Serene Abundance Studio (updates for that will be on the Serene Abundance Studio page and website.) 

I hope to put together some online versions of these in-person group offerings- Sign up for updates to this page, follow the Serena Appel, MA Facebook page, or contact me directly to learn more. 

I will post future updates to this announcement, plus any additional useful advice or resources, as it becomes relevant. Read on for a little article that I hope will provide some helpful suggestions. 


BUT, NOW WHAT DO WE DO? 

Coping with a pandemic is naturally going to bring up anxiety, fears for one's self and loved ones, worries about the future and about existential issues, and unease about what to expect or who/what to trust. 

It's worth remembering that, as has been true for other crises in the U.S. in the past, there is a certain amount of hysteria and spread of misinformation that goes along with really life-changing national events. 9/11... Y2K... Ebola virus... the AIDS crisis... All of these and more have been met with a certain amount of panic (and inflation of that panic). 

What is most challenging about the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 is that we just, honestly, don't have a fully accurate way to know how to track it, or isolate those who have it. Much has been made of the stock market plummeting. Events larger than 250 people in Oregon are being canceled. Those in the healthcare fields are dedicated to doing all they can to help, but we are unsure at the moment how much this will impact our health care facilities. All of this evokes a strong fear of the unknown in people, and we as humans HATE fear of the unknown on a really primitive level. 

Yet, despite the huge and lasting impact of those crises I just mentioned- if you're reading this, you are still here. Right now, you are surviving. Life as we know it right now has, largely, gone on as usual. We have faced many threats as a nation and as a society, but we have somehow managed to continue to pull through. 

The best thing to do in the face of a national (and global) threat is counterintuitive, and sometimes challenging: It helps best to REMAIN CALM and make real-world plans, based on what information you find the most sensible or accurate. 
Many of the efforts that helped with that, in past times, came from people living their every day lives, sticking things out and finding ways to help one another however they could, using their ingenuity, common sense, and resourcefulness to care for themselves and others. For just one example, we have so many examples of people in New York City who had previously been complete strangers to one another, pulling together to help those in need during the 9/11 Ground Zero event. And we can do it again. You can start anywhere, anytime.

So what can be done about all this? 

1. Keep alert for local  updates. 

Stay in touch with resources you feel you can trust, to provide guidance and information. Here are a few you can try out. Click on the titles below: 






2. But don't be TOO alert! 

As a mental health provider for more than the past decade, and having done a bit of studying into areas such as mind-body medicine, mindfulness approaches, wellness and longevity, I can back up the message coming from many of today's health resources: UNMANAGED STRESS IS NOT GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH. 

We have a body of evidence suggesting that stress, i.e. what happens when you don't feel you have the resources to meet the demands of everyday life, can have a direct impact on your immune system, heart function and blood pressure, mental or emotional health symptoms, pain levels, and more- when it is not being managed properly. 

I see a lot of people hyperfocusing on information about COVID-19... Or being forced to, because of the nature of their personal or work-related involvements. And of course, worrying about the future is inherently stressful! 

While you are working on upping your hand washing game, talking to others about current events, or stocking supplies, ALSO make time in your day to build in some stress reduction and healthy coping strategies. This could look like a variety of things, but it includes:

-Taking care of basics, such as getting good sleep, eating nutritiously every day, keeping up on any daily health routines, setting medication or supplement reminders, etc. 

-Get some (fun) exercise. If you aren't moving, or haven't been doing much moving around other than daily tasks, consider doing a yoga or stretching practice, walking the dog, shooting some hoops, playing with the kids, etc. You can get a break from staying indoors by going for a hike or just being outside for a little while. (hint: direct exposure to daylight- no sunglasses- for just 5 or more minutes per day can help boost your mood and your body's Vitamin D levels!) 

-Build in daily mindfulness. There are plenty of apps available on our cell phones these days to help you relax and unwind. Calm, Headspace, The Tapping Solution, Heart Math, Noom, etc. Find one that speaks to you and use it- or perhaps listening to guided imagery podcasts or relaxing music is more your thing? Try to spend at least a few minutes a day on mindfulness breaks, and work your way up to at least 10 minutes daily. If you have trouble sitting still, try practicing walking, or doing a routine chore such as dish washing/floor sweeping plus deep breathing and present-moment awareness (i.e. active meditation).

-Spend enjoyable time. Do you craft? Maybe it's time to pick up creative journaling? Do you like to hang out on the phone or play online videogames with friends? Have a show you love to binge watch? Now might be a good time to allow yourself to get absorbed in an activity, or spend quality time with others. (hint: if you talk to friends/family, try to limit the amount of time you discuss current events & re-focus on things you both enjoy.)

-Maintain a positive outlook. This basically comes down to learning how to self-reassure. Reminding one's self of key phrases, such as "Yes, this is scary, but those scary things aren't happening to me right now" are one way to handle this. Write out some phrases you can believe and keep them handy to help yourself stay calm. 

3. Learn how to prepare for the unexpected. 

For those of us in the local Central Coast area in particular, and folks generally, it's not a bad idea to review your Emergency Preparedness level. Here are a couple of websites that offer practical advice to consider when making plans:


One personal observation I'd like to empahsize: While you are stocking up for a possible emergency, PLEASE DO NOT CLEAN OUT LOCAL STORES OF ALL SUPPLIES! It will make the community, as a whole, LESS and not MORE safe, if members of the general public are not able to access basics such as cleaning and sanitizing supplies, medical equipment, OTC medications, (ahem! toilet paper) and so on. Last notice I saw recommended preparing for a two-week supply of basic necessities/non-perishable food, in case of slowed supply lines. Remember that you can now also have many items delivered through UPS, USPS, and Amazon Locker, which should be at least- if not more- safe than getting your items in person.

4. Do what you can do, leave the rest.

At the end of the day, there's only so much any of us as individuals can do. Learning to recognize and work within your own limitations- and respecting the limitations or vulnerabilities of others- is extremely valuable in any type of crisis response. Our limitations help us remember what it's like to be human and infallible, and how precious that can be!

Try to avoid the urge to over-extend yourself or give in to fear-based reactions. Others will make do if you become ill or too worn out to help. Communicate honestly what you can or can't do, and try to ask directly for what you need of others. Let's set our minds on getting through all of this together.

5. Schedule a session.

If the above tips aren't helping you enough, consider scheduling a therapy session and talking things over. I have availability for both remote and in-person appointments. I am able to take a variety of private insurances, and I offer a pay-what-you-can arrangement for those who can't afford a full fee out-of-pocket appointment. I can also refer to other therapists or health resources, where necessary. You can reach me at the "Contact" page on this website. 


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Call for Art/Classes/Presentations 2020


For 2020, SASS will be changing things up a little bit for art shows and presentations. Please reply ASAP if you are interested in being a part of the activities for this year!

Now seeking:

~Individual visual/2D artists, small sculpturists, or crafters, working in any media, to show their work in the space for quarterly exhibits (2-3 months at a time.) Open to artists of any skill level, background, or topic, but the work MUST align with our vision and mission to provide examples of creativity as a means for healing, inspiration, visionary exploration/experience, and/or community building.

You will have roughly 75 sq. ft. of wall space to play with for planning a show. Those with 3D work can make use of about 3 sq. ft. of bookcase display space. Work must be ready to hang at the time of dropoff. There are no hanging/application fees, but there is 30% commission on any work sold. (No fee charged to our current clients.)

To apply, please submit a few examples of your work or a link to an online portfolio, introduce yourself and your background, and describe how your work fits within the theme of creativity for healing.

~Presentations, Classes and Workshop ideas. This can be in concert with an art exhibit of your work, or can be stand-alone.

Seeking presentations and workshops that help promote related themes such as creativity for healing or therapy, inspiration, personal expression/development, community building and enhancement, visionary or spiritual exploration.

The Studio can offer space for a small group (3-10 people), but can also help sponsor your offering to a larger audience, if desired, through our partnership with local businesses and organizations.

To apply, please describe a little about your background, whether you've taught or presented to the public before, some examples of the type of work you'd like to feature, a brief idea pitch or outline, how this project aligns with our Studio vision and mission, and your rate (if any).

Looking forward to seeing what you've got for 2020!







2nd Saturday January: Holiday Deconstruction!



Stop by the Studio during 2nd Saturday Gallery Tour, January 11th, 3-5pm for a last fond look at the "Humorous Holidays" show before it comes off the wall! Why are we calling this "Holiday Deconstruction", you ask? You can help SASS clean house for 2020 by picking your favorite meme, art piece, decoration or card on the wall and taking it home with you! The Spirit of the Season is guaranteed to be with you all year long.

You'll also have a chance to shop handmade jewelry from Honey Morrison of Barefoot Hippies before it goes away for the year- at amazingly affordable prices. Maybe a good time to stock up on some gifts for next December? Ho Ho Oh Yeah!



Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Call for Art- Humorous Holidays

Get your Ho Ho Ho on with a visual art show that really knows how you feel about the holiday season.

Encouraging all artists (we're defining the term loosely here) to create or bring work that shows off your spirit of holiday humor! All winter holidays are fair game- we're all equal-opportunity satirists around here.

All art must be ready to hang on the wall. No hanging fee, we will take 30% comission if your artwork sells. Drop off deadline Dec. 12th to the Studio. Please message, email or call/text to arrange a drop off time, or come by during Open Studio on Thurdays, 3-5pm.

Join us for a holiday party and art opening as part of 2nd Saturday Gallery Tour on Dec. 14th from 3-5pm. Show will be up until February 2nd, 2020.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Community Altar Build This Weekend



The Florence Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, an organization that recognizes and honors faiths and beliefs of all traditions and backgrounds, has graciously agreed to host this Community Altar project for 2019! You can learn more about FUUF by visiting their Facebook page HERE



Thursday, October 31, 2019

Peace Health & Changing Insurance Coverage in 2020


In a somewhat controversial move, Peace Health is dropping two big providers for the Florence and Eugene areas: Trillium OHP and Health Net Advantage.

This article sums up the issue:

https://www.kezi.com/content/news/PeaceHealth-cuts-ties-with-Trillium-Health-Net-563712951.html?fbclid=IwAR1YGDQmSFNLPNcH9k_c1yH1hip9owlFLLXpMPf-sKdLPKmbanTXfummXaY

I went to Peace Health's website, and they appear to have updated it with current information. Scroll down to see what coverages are available:

https://www.peacehealth.org/about-peacehealth/financial-services/get-health-insurance

On the heels of this, it's worth announcing that we are, in fact, getting a new Coordinated Care Org. in 2020 in Lane County, which is Pacific Source. It appears they have both Medicare and Medicaid coverages.

Here's the Pacific Source website:

https://pacificsource.com/Home/


And as always, make sure you stay on top of open enrollment periods if you are applying for health insurance coverage other than OHP (which is typically open year-round).