Counselors with Wake Forest University dealing with increased addiction rate amid pandemic

Buckley Report

(WGHP) — There doesn’t seem to be any facet of life the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t touch.

The combination of economic trauma and being cut off from people close to us created a huge surge in anxiety and its fallout: drug and alcohol addiction.

The need for counselors for these problems was greater than ever. Fortunately, what Wake Forest University had been doing for nearly a decade was essential in dealing with it.

In 2012, WFU began a mostly online curriculum for people who wanted to be counselors. For people like Jody Nash, it was perfect: she was already out of college and couldn’t go back full time.

So, even though she lived in Kernersville and could drive to the Wake Forest campus fairly easily, that wouldn’t fit into her already busy schedule.

Nathaniel Ivers is the chairman of the department at WFU and says we need to keep working to make seeking counseling help not appear to be a weakness.

“Although we’ve reduced the stigma, I think we need to help people realize that it’s a strength to seek services,” Ivers said. “One of the biggest challenges with addiction is recognizing that a problem is beyond my own ability to handle.”

And addiction increased significantly during the pandemic.

Nash graduated from WFU’s program with a master’s degree and now works as a counselor in Kernserville. She says people have no idea how smart it is to get the help you may not even realize you need.

“Sometimes, I find people just need to talk. I’ve never found someone who couldn’t benefit from counseling, ever,” Nash said.

By setting up its program mostly online, with a couple of on-campus sessions each year, WFU was able to scale up its output from 30 in a typical year to 300.

And since WFU grads were so familiar with how to use remote contact well, it paid off for counselors like Nash when they had to move most of their patient visits online.

“You’re able to reach more people and people who were used to coming to their sessions regularly. And, all of a sudden, you can’t take that away. It could create a lot of anxiety,” Nash said. “If somebody goes out of town – goes to the mountains or goes to the beach – they can still have their session without a break in their routine.”

See how it works and why Nash is such an effective counselor in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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