Free online group therapy sessions offer Hope and Healing

The Mental Health Association of New Jersey has created free group therapy sessions for people across the state to show no one is going through pandemic times alone. 

The association, in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Disaster and Terrorism Branch, offers a crisis counseling program called Hope and Healing through a FEMA  grant it received on April, 28. The grant allows the association to offer three types of support for people struggling with their mental health. 

“So many people are emotionally impacted by COVID-19,” said Jaime Angelini, director of human services for the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County. “Especially for our front line workers and our parents … we just want people to know we have this free service and we are here for them.”

“Our grant has three components to it,” Angelini continued. “One is our virtual support group, and then we have a helpline that operates 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week … We also have a text line which is pretty unique.” 

The free virtual group sessions are being done over Zoom and were created to help  people struggling with different aspects of COVID. The groups are an open forum for front line workers, school nurses, parents dealing with hybrid and remote learning, those who have tested positive for COVID, or their family members.

“People can do it from the comfort and safety of their own home,” said Angelini. “The focus of this program is about resiliency, it’s about talking to people about their reactions to this disaster … It’s helping to provide short term intervention to help you leave with coping strategies.”

The forums are community based and led by trained crisis counselors. The group sessions focus on coping strategies, encourage emotional and peer support and help to mitigate stress. The leaders use talking points and Powerpoints to convey stress management and coping skills. There are also portions of the sessions where the floor is open for community members to speak to one another about their worries and to offer other coping strategies.

“That’s what we want people to know: They can join a Zoom group and meet with people who are going through the same thing,” Angelini explained. “We are hoping that when people step away from that group, they are more hopeful.” 

The association has provided services for those in need of mental health assistance for 75 years..It offers programs every day of the week at different times, and there are also group sessions in Spanish.

“Our agency runs 50 other groups a week … This is just one piece of what we do,” Angelini said. “We have had hundreds of people come through groups at this point. We also know there are people out there who don’t know these services are available. Although we have served so many, there are still a lot of people out there we still want to reach.”

To attend an event, visit https://www.mhanj.org/virtual-support-and-learning-opportunities 

to view all available and upcoming sessions and click on the link associated with the event. Participants are not required to speak or turn on their cameras and are allowed to use different names to remain anonymous.