Covid in California: Mental Health Matters - Clinical Psychology Doctoral Intern, Ariela Rabizadeh

March 18, 2021  •  Leave a Comment


Here's a feature I'm excited to share with you...

Ariela is a Child/Adolescent Clinical Psychology Doctoral Intern at a residential treatment center with youth who have life threatening mental health symptoms. Her job is extremely important because she is on the frontlines of supporting these youngsters from all sorts of crises. She works with youth who are diagnosed with a range of different disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD) that may present in emotional dysregulation and difficulty regulating/calming down/soothing. This dysregulation can often lead to life-threatening behaviors such as suicide, self-harm, and/or aggression. Many youth use self-harm as a way to cope with really intense feelings. These 'crises' can be defined as anytime someone is at imminent risk of being a danger to themselves or others.

See below for my captivating interview with Ariela, and let us remember to be gentle, smile (even under a mask), and support one another, especially during this time.

RR: How has Covid-19 impacted you personally? 

AR: I am super close with my family so it’s been tough not to hug them when we social distance outdoors. On a positive note, it inspired me to slow down and take time each day to appreciate health, people, and all the things that are going right. I began engaging in way more self-care with bubble baths, baking, essential oils, new candles and more! It also allowed me to reflect on me and values that are important to me.

RR: Did you or anyone you know get it?

AR: Yes, and it was terrifying! There was a breakout at my workplace, which resulted in mass-testing. I actually took two tests on the same day (mouth swab was negative and an hour later, the nose swab test was positive). I quarantined for 2 weeks and luckily didn't have any symptoms, but apparently that was my case of Covid! It was so scary...I was waking up literally every night terrified that I’d have symptoms come up.

RR: What specifically changed your personal / professional life during this time? I.E. What daily routine did you have to adjust?

AR: When the pandemic first started, I was treating kiddos with OCD and we had to shift to telehealth...which was very odd for the type of interactive and hands-on treatment I was providing. Then half way through the pandemic, I completed all my coursework and I shifted into my full time clinical residency/doctoral internship year which is supposed to be the hardest year of my graduate school experience. I moved away from my family and I began working as a full time clinician treating youth with severe mental health symptoms. I had to adjust to going to work in-person because the youth I work with are at risk for life-threatening behaviors such as suicide and other symptoms that require more intensive treatment and monitoring.

I also had to start wearing very uncomfortable protective gear. As a (soon-to-be) child psychologist, my facial expression/affect is a big tool to show empathy or other’s been so weird doing this job without being able to show my kiddos my reactions... like if I’m laughing with them or that I’m sad with them. Sometimes I feel like the protective gear creates more distance or that it makes therapy less personal.

RR: Is there a story behind your mask?

AR: Not really in a figurative sense. In a more literal sense, there’s just a bunch of facial expressions that nobody can see! On the few really hard days where my youth were really struggling, my mask held some of my tears.

RR: What do you miss most about life before Covid-19?

AR: Going to work each day and being with coworkers in a shared space, grabbing dinner or drinks with friends.

RR: What has Covid-19 made you grateful for?

AR: Health, gatherings with friends/family, and HUGS!

RR: What has been the biggest challenge for you during this time?

AR: 1. Living and breathing the challenges of 2020/2021 through the youth I work with who are already struggling with so much 2. Having really hard days at a challenging job and not being able to hug or gather with friends/family because I am at high risk for exposure.

RR: What are you most excited for when things return to “normal”?

AR: I am completing my doctoral degree in clinical psychology in a few months so I’m hoping for an actual in-person graduation!

I also can’t wait to provide treatment without a mask, getting dressed up to go out with my friends, traveling, doing hot yoga in-person and decreased worry about keeping those around me healthy and safe! I am also soooooo excited for my hands to become smooth again when I don’t have to sanitize or wash hands a million times a day!

Thank you, Ariela, for sharing your story with us. You are an inspiration to all those lucky enough to know you and we appreciate all that you are doing to make this world a better place!

If you or anyone you know has a story to be shared, please feel free to message or email me!


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