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Children offered help to deal with Covid-19 blues

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Belinda Henderson, a senior clinical psychology assistant at Solstice and head of the online therapy curriculum (Photograph supplied)
Treasure Tannock, an intern at Solstice (Photograph supplied)

Young people grappling with the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic can now benefit from a virtual group therapy programme.

Connect Virtual is a Zoom-based programme initiated by Solstice, a psychological and psychiatric treatment centre in Pembroke.

It provides group sessions designed for children aged 6 to 11 and 12 to 15 arming them with the tools to deal with challenges including isolation, anxiety and lack of structure.

The programme was initially launched in March last year as the island went into lockdown and has now been given a new lease of life following the announcement of the stay-at-home order.

Belinda Henderson, senior clinical psychology assistant at Solstice and head of the online therapy curriculum, said: “Since we launched the programme last year, we have learnt to recognise the value of the virtual environment. With the announcement of the stay-at-home we hit the ground running.

“We are providing a structured environment and a sense of normalcy – it is a meaningful experience. Many of the things of the things we take for granted like connection, bonding, routine and schedule were lost with the pandemic.

“The children come in as a group and all the treatment is evidence based. They learn about how to calm down, how to self sooth and self-regulate, how to cope with loneliness, and they learn about impulse control.

“The children love the groups with their peers and friends it is creating long term memories. The therapy allows us to all heal together.”

The virtual programme team also includes Eloïse Pitts Crick, the executive director and senior clinical psychologist at Solstice, Azaria Smith, a clinical psychology assistant at Solstice, and Treasure Tannock, a Solstice intern and drama therapist.

Connect Virtual was inspired by Solstice's social skills and empowerment programme, which features several clubs designed for children and teenagers. It includes music, visual stimulation and on-screen messages.

Ms Smith said: “Some are feeling a general sense of uncertainty, they are wondering when they will go back to school and when they will see their friends, and that uncertainty can create anxiety.

“The groups give them structure, certainty, a sense of normalcy and connection.

“We are having fun which helps to mitigate low mood.

“They have an opportunity to see each other and to engage in this virtual environment. We have built a curriculum that teaches coping mechanisms and resilience.”

The sessions are due to restart on a structured basis on April 19 and will take place every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday during out-of-school hours.

Ms Tannock added: “The beautiful thing about the group setting is that it provides that sense of belonging and sense of environment. We find a way, not to help you overcome them by yourself, but to present a group setting where all of us overcome them together.

“It is providing a social setting that we can all grow from. It is providing a sense of unity, consistency and structure.”

For more information about the Connect Virtual programme, e-mail groups@solstice.bm or call 292-3456

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Published April 15, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated April 15, 2021 at 6:01 am)

Children offered help to deal with Covid-19 blues

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