UNLV therapists have launched an outreach program to help community members cope with Nevada's all-time high unemployment rate.
Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, and violent emotional outbursts can be exaggerated by unemployment. Joblessness also can lead to a loss of identity and sense of belonging.
When people lose these things, they question who they are and what they're going to do in life," said Gerald Weeks, chair of the marriage and family therapy department.
One goal of the UNLV Center for Individual, Couple and Family Counseling is to provide much-needed services to the community and to help families recognize problems common to their situation. Unemployed parents, for example, can become either too controlling of their kids or distant and inattentive to children's needs.
When a person becomes unemployed, there is a tendency for his or her partner to become anxious and critical, which is the opposite of how a partner should react," Weeks said. Instead of hearing encouragement and words of hope, the unemployed person may end up in a situation of marital hostility and fear."
Colleen Peterson, director of the center, said the problem of unemployment stress is exacerbated by Nevada having fewer mental health facilities and programs than other states. Las Vegas's transiency can further diminish a person's sense of belonging.
"Because of the local housing market and economy, you see people leaving all the time and in a lot of ways that contributes to the lack of community," Peterson said.
No One Turned Away
Research has shown individuals cope better through an economic downturn when they can talk about their feelings, stay active as they job search, and remain positive, Weeks said.
Confidential therapy sessions help clients improve communication skills with their families and learn to stay positive. A sliding payment schedule ensures no one is turned away.
For the last 11 years, the Center for Individual, Couple and Family Counseling has offered therapy to Las Vegas residents to treat anger management, anxiety, depression, and relationship and child behavior issues. Graduate students provide therapy under faculty supervision. Students are required to provide 500 hours of therapy before completing their advanced degrees in psychology or marriage and family therapy.
In 2009, the center provided more than 4,000 hours of therapy to Southern Nevadans. Services are available Monday through Thursday and after hours by appointment.
To sign up for confidential therapy sessions, call 702-895-3106.