Alzak Amlani, PhD, is a clinical psychologist practicing in the SF Bay Area for about 23 years. He specializes in navigating major life transitions due to relationship changes, death/loss, career transitions, issues in relationship- marriage, anxiety and depression. He uses an integrative approach to work with the whole person—mind, emotions, body and spirit. He integrates conscious and unconscious aspects, utilize dream work, meditation and nature to assist in healing and balancing. Since 2007, Dr. Amlani been a faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he trains graduate students to become marriage and family therapists.
ICA: How did your professional routine and practices change due to COVID-19?
Dr. Amlani: Since the quarantine order, I have been working with people via phone and through an online platform. I am quite surprised at how well it works even with couples and families. I have taught my classes on zoom and although I miss the in-person contact, there is enough connection and transfer of information to be a successful medium for teaching.
ICA: What changes are you seeing in patients, due to this unprecedented combination of COVID-19, racial injustice revelations, and economic downturn? How are people coping?
Dr. Amlani: There is a range of responses and coping styles with my patients during this pandemic. Many are able to work at home and set up their home-life to be a conducive work environment. Setting up a space that is quiet, comfortable, private and supportive is crucial during this time. Creating some sort of social contact through the day, even if it is on the phone or standing on the balcony, saying hello to a neighbor helps break the isolation for those spending too much time alone.
Patients whose jobs and incomes have been threatened are more anxious and worried. Helping them increase support of various kinds (financial, family, friends) and not catastrophize and worry about the future has been helpful. Parents with young children have struggled more due to the larger, combined responsibilities of working and parenting at home. Creating structure, getting more help and maintaining self-care for adults has been crucial in keeping the family stable and nourished. The more adults who can participate in the various tasks at home, the less it falls on one person, usually the mother.
Those people who have spent more time doing creative activities such as cooking, playing a musical instrument, writing, gardening and the like have found this period meaningful. Other people have needed to work and commute less and their health and well-being have improved.
ICA: What advice would you like to share?
Dr. Amlani: Walking, being in nature, cycling or other sports have kept people more resilient with stronger immune systems and feel less depressed and anxious with a calm sense of strength and optimism. Finding ways to safely socialize with key persons on a regular basis has also added joy and connection at a time when feeling lonely and afraid is common. When these feelings arise, it’s valuable to first be present to them. Take a breath; sense your body and feel the actual feelings that are arising. They are not enemies and won’t destroy you. They are messages of what you’re experiencing that need some of your attention and care.