Entrepreneurs and COVID-19 - Interview with Theresa Nicassio, a Registered Psychologist, Radio Host, Published Author and Wellness Columnist (Vancouver)

Please share a bit about yourself as an entrepreneur and what your business entails - brick and mortar store, online, product, etc.. 

While I wear a lot of hats professionally, they all pretty much revolve around my beloved career as a registered psychologist. Providing compassionate integrative psychotherapy has been my life work and passion since the mid-80’s - first serving students, faculty and staff at UBC and other university counselling centres until shifting to serving individuals, couples, and families in private practice starting in 2003. I continue in private practice to this day.

In addition to my typical brick and mortar practice, I also utilize various conventional media (radio, tv, print & online publications) and provide other outreach services as a social media influencer. My website (TheresaNicassio.com) also makes quality health and wellness information accessible to everyone, including those who are most vulnerable.

The other big branch of my professional world is as the award-winning author of YUM: Plant-Based Recipes for a Gluten-Free Diet, a best-selling healthy lifestyle resource book.  It has received over a dozen international and local accolades, including a Gourmand International Cookbook Best in the World Award in 2016.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, how did you work with your regular clients and reach out to new ones. What type of marketing worked best for you?

As is the case for most psychologists, I have pretty much always worked with my regular clients in person in a private office setting. However, a small portion of my services are provided through phone consultations.

I’ve never really been one for marketing my practice since historically most of my clients have been referred to me via word-of-mouth. That said, since the huge success of my book and radio show (with over 350 thousand monthly listeners), more new clients have been finding me online or even from the library after reading my book. 

How has the social isolation required to combat the spread of COVID-19 affected your business? What about this has been hardest for you personally?

Before the move to isolation, it was first all about physical distancing, hand washing and disinfecting all surfaces between clients. Because I also love to offer my clients tea or filtered water, that lovely tradition came to a screeching halt.

Even worse, though, has been the impact on my clients who lost their ability to work with the progression to lock down. It’s hard to pay for therapy when you have no funds coming in, making therapy a financial hardship. For those impacted in such a way, I have been offering a reduced fee schedule and some pro-bono services. 

In addition to the obvious loss of income, the part that has been most difficult for me is my concern for clients I work with who are front-line workers, especially those in extremely high-risk jobs in terms of potential COVID-19 exposure, as well as those who are immuno-compromised and in potential risk. I care deeply about my clients and want them to stay safe, especially in the face of this virus.

The other hard part has been the inability to take on new clients because I’m unable to meet in person any new clients. Meeting them in person is how I begin working with everyone in order to ensure safety and to strengthen the clinical relationship. Because I am also immuno-compromised, this factor is also very significant. 

Have you found new ways to interact with your customer? Have you developed any new products or services as a way to help your clients through this time, or to fill a new need you see?

Yes and yes. The biggest shift has been having all sessions on the phone. For some of my clients who had already used phone consultations from time to time, the adjustment was seamless. However, the majority of my clients were used to coming to sessions in person in my warm and cozy office. The idea of phone sessions was initially not very appealing to some of them.

Fortunately, since I’ve been providing phone sessions for decades that have proven to be very effective, I could ease their trepidation about using the phone. Once they experienced it, several said that it almost felt as if they were at my office. The sessions were so helpful they’ve been really happy to be able to schedule more times.

Because of the huge emotional and relational impacts of the lock down, and the growing need for psychological support, I have made extra efforts to leverage my social media and radio show in ways to provide helpful information and emotional guidance. It is something I do anyway, but because of the mental health implications of the pandemic, I turned up the dimmer switch to the max to provide as much helpful general information as possible and make it easily accessible to everyone. 

What type of marketing seems to be working best for you in this time of social isolation?

I’m not actually doing any marketing during this time of social isolation. My focus is simply to offer as much free content as I can to help as many people as possible. 

Anything you'd like readers to know about you and your business? Any last words of encouragement you'd like to share with everyone?

The most important thing I’d like readers to know about is the free online wellness resource hub I’ve created at TheresaNicassio.com. It's a place anyone and everyone can have access to top quality health and wellness information and resources. Also accessible on that page are all my past radio show interviews with international and local leaders and changemakers who are doing all they can to empower and educate in an effort to help the world be a healthier, kinder, and more sustainable place.

Last words of encouragement: During this time of uncertainty when many things may feel or actually be out of your control, focus on what you DO have control of and make the most of it. Hang in there. This won’t last forever, even though it may feel like it will. 

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