Argentine psychologist encourages people to seek therapy in times of Covid-19

By Rodrigo Garcia

Buenos Aires, Jun 24 (EFE).- Whether mourning a family member who died of Covid-19, feeling guilty about spreading the coronavirus to another person, being laid off from a job or suffering sleep disorders.

The pandemic has affected all of us to a greater or lesser degree, according to Argentine psychologist Diana Hunsche, who urged people in need of assistance to set aside their prejudices and value the benefits that therapy can provide.

“I think it’s the best time to talk about the importance of seeking help. Why do we go to a dentist and seek professional help at that level yet not in the psychological realm?” Hunsche, author of the 2021 book “A terapia, ¿yo?” (Me, in Therapy?), said in an interview with Efe.

Many people now feel adrift at sea and are looking for a life raft, said Hunsche, a psychologist with four decades of experience.

“Therapy at this time can be of great help in (coping with) grief, guilt, fears, uncertainty about the future,” she added.

Losing someone to the virus undoubtedly has been one of the most difficult consequences of the pandemic, especially when it was not possible to arrange a funeral service.

“The link doesn’t end and isn’t broken by death,” Hunsche said.

A professional who has collaborated with different institutions throughout her career, she fondly recalls working with Argentine heart bypass surgery pioneer Dr. Rene Favaloro and conducting therapy sessions with his patients.

“Favaloro would say that optimism has biological effects. That’s a phrase that’s stuck with me my entire life,” said Hunsche, who sees patients both in person and virtually at her office in Buenos Aires province.

In her experience, those who had faced dramatic hardships in the past have been better able to cope with the psychological impact of Covid-19. By contrast, young people who had never before dealt with a crisis of this magnitude are more psychologically vulnerable.

Hunsche has attended to several patients over the past year who endured bouts with Covid-19, a disease that left some of them with a distorted sense of smell, muscle pain or asthenia (abnormal physical weakness or lack of energy).

But she said that beyond the immediate medical effects of the virus among the population, the psychological impact has been seen in sleep disorders, quarantine fatigue and temporal disorientation.

“A curious phenomenon that’s occurred is that when a person dies of some cause that isn’t Covid, people tell you as if it weren’t that important, as if Covid were something akin to dying in a war,” Hunsche said.

And many become guilt-ridden, not only those anguished by the thought of having infected people who later succumbed to Covid-19 but also those who have been medically and economically unaffected by the pandemic even as so many others have suffered.

“They tell me via video call in a low voice, as if it were a secret,” the psychologist said.

After decades studying different theoretical schools and listening to her patients, Hunsche decided to address the myths, fears and prejudices surrounding a potential visit to the psychologist in “A terapia, ¿yo?” a book featuring illustrations and written in a question-answer format.

“How many times have we heard that therapy is an unnecessary luxury, or that the therapist manipulates you, or that a stranger can’t understand you? They’re very valid concerns that required a serious response couched in accessible language,” she said. EFE


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