East Texas Crisis Center adapts counseling methods amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Next Normal: Crisis Center

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Inside the East Texas Crisis Center, counselors like Victoria Bennie are helping people at some of the lowest points of their lives. And now, the way they do that is looking different. Scheduled counseling sessions are now done mostly through video chat, but some services are still in-person.

“We do still provide face to face services for the clients who live here. So, we just have to implement the social distancing wearing a mask if we’re in a session with them. So, we haven’t had to implement a few changes, but we are still providing face to face services for our resident clients,” Bennie said.

Bennie says although they’ve moved their counseling sessions online, that doesn’t mean they won’t help people who show up to their building.

“Now, if we have someone who has never been here before, but they walk into our front door, we’re not going to say oh, hey, can you leave and like call us, we will see people that walk in. But of course, we still have to do social distancing,” Bennie said.

Since the pandemic began, Bennie says some months they’ve seen an increase in protective orders – those are court orders for victims of violence, stalking, or abuse that will order the abuser to stay away from them.

“So far, in July, we’ve had maybe four or five but in June, we had 11, which is a lot,” Bennie said.

Despite the rise in protective orders, Bennie says they have not received a large increase in calls for help – and she says that’s likely happening for a reason.

“We know that during this time, especially when quarantine had started happening, we weren’t getting the hotline calls that some people had expected us to get. But that makes sense because if the if the victim or survivor was in the house and also the abuser was in the house, they’re not going to have that time to get away and call us if they typically would if the abuser was out at work or something,” Bennie said.

Bennie says creating a connection through a webcam can prove challenging, but they have methods to make it feel just as real as an in-person meeting.

“I do this sometimes in family sessions with kids, we kind of pretend like there’s a rope and like I would pull you and you would come closer to the camera, and then I’d push and you’d go further from the camera. So, it’s kind of fun playful ways that we can interact and connect and feel a little bit more together,” Bennie said.

Despite the changes, the goal of the crisis center holds steady.

“We’re still here we will always believe you. I know times are really difficult can be very strained right now and know that it’s not your fault. It’s never the survivors fault that any of this is happening and it’s gonna be made to seem like it is like this your fault that I’m grumpy because I lost my job or it’s your fault that I want to control you so I’m going to beat you or yell at you or, you know, scare you. It’s never the survivor’s fault. It’s always the person exhibiting these behaviors fault,” Bennie said.

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