Alumnae Address Some Strategies for Coping in 2020 and Beyond

Recognizing that this year has been extra challenging for many, we reached out to three Colorado College alumnae who are all professionals in different areas of the mental health space and asked for a few tips from each of their areas of expertise.

Brittany Linton ’09Brittany Linton ’09, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and serves as the director for primary care and mental health integration for the San Francisco Veterans Healthcare System. A prior clinical operations manager for Mindstrong Health, a telemental health technology startup, she’s focused her career on how psychology, health, and technology contribute toward mental health resilience. particularly for Black and LGBTQI+ communities. You can follow her on Twitter @doctor_brittany for infrequent, insightful postings.

Brittany Linton ’09

CC: With COVID-19 keeping so many people at home, virtual therapy is booming. For those who’ve seen therapists in person, and might be hesitant to go online, why should they give it a try?

BL: I’m a strong advocate for testing the virtual therapy waters. With therapy being easier than ever to access, it certainly can’t hurt to have a dedicated and trained professional “in your pocket” without you having to leave your home to support you in tackling this tumultuous year. For those experienced with traditional face-to-face therapy, there’s a common initial hesitancy in exploring virtual options — “What if I don’t feel as connected and understood by my therapist if we’re meeting online?” It’s important to remember that human connection isn’t lost in digital care — it simply takes a different form. The therapist working with you isn’t any less dedicated in helping you better understand and manage your feelings and experiences. More often than not, after the initial sessions of resolving technology issues, getting comfortable with the digital method, and building up rapport, most people become ardent supporters of the convenience and availability.

CC: For those who’ve never seen a therapist, but are struggling, what are some of the benefits to virtual therapy?

BL: Digital therapy provides access and convenience in receiving effective care. Whether new to therapy or starting another round in your well-being journey, you now can identify and interview a wide range of providers to meet your needs — regardless of distance. This is game-changing for those wanting a specialized therapist for a particular concern, like examining childhood grief of a lost parent. Similarly, it’s easier to find a competent provider aligned with your personal intersectional identity, such as a Spanish-speaking clinician who’s worked with transwomen. Clinicians located 200 miles away are now essentially around the corner, so long as they’re in the same state. Finally, remember if the first person isn’t a good fit, don’t be too quick to blame it on virtual care — make sure you try a second or third person. Therapy is trusting the clinician to help support our journey and trusting ourselves in making the best choices we can in the moment along that course.

CC: Anything else you’ve been thinking about a lot that might be helpful for our alumni?

BL: Remembering our capacity for resilience is key. Our mental health and well-being reserves are fluctuating with changing demands and our emotional-capacity batteries are continually drained. Given the intense demands being placed upon us, the routines we create for ourselves are likely not buoying us for the longer cycles that we were accustomed to before. By this point in 2020, myself and many others — and probably you — have undergone two or three cycles of creating a routine for coping. I fully anticipate that we’ll keep having to make adjustments every few weeks because of the quick drain from high demands. When the routine to restore reserves is no longer working, it’s a signal to your body and mind that it’s time to develop a brand new set of tactics. This process of challenge, adjustment, growth, and establishing new patterns is your cycle of building resilience. Through this painful journey, we’re learning about new facets of ourselves and capabilities. Remain curious, open, and compassionate to your resilience, my fellow Tigers.

Danielle Malo ’97Danielle Malo ’97 is a board-certified music therapist, who graduated from CC with a degree in music and completed a master’s in music therapy at Colorado State University in 2002. She has worked in child and adolescent mental health at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital since 2003. She’s currently completing a second master’s degree in mental health counseling and hopes to finish next year. Her passion for using music for mental health, wellness, and self-care continues to inspire her to work with kids.


Danielle Malo ’97

CC:  People are looking for ways to cope with stress and anxiety right now. How might music play a role in this process?

DM: Music listening, singing, and playing an instrument can provide a sense of mindfulness, promote relaxation, and offer an aesthetically pleasing distraction from our busy lives. Mindfulness exercises have been shown to lower heart and breathing rates and reduce anxiety (Hudziak, 2016). The process of singing mirrors deep breathing, which also reduces overall stress levels. Taking the time for yourself to do something that brings joy is critical when stress levels are elevated. Listening to your favorite artists during your commute, while cooking or getting ready in the morning, or using music for pure pleasure are all valuable and promote a positive mood and lower stress levels (Panteleeva, Ceschi, Glowinski, Courvoisier, & Grandjean, 2018).

CC: Why should we consider music a part of mental health support?

DM: Music communicates emotions regardless of genre, language, lyrics, or tempo. Accessing your favorite music, whether listening, singing, or playing, can provide the structure to relax, enjoy, and return to our responsibilities with fresh energy and perspective.

CC: Anything else you’ve been thinking about a lot that might be helpful for our alumni?

DM: If you or someone you know could benefit from music therapy services, contact your state or regional music therapy association or the American Music Therapy Association. There are many qualified music therapists across the country with the experience and expertise to provide quality services.

Jenni Skyler ’03Jenni Skyler ’03, Ph.D., LMFT, CST is an AASECT-certified sex therapist, board-certified sexologist, and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She has been the director of The Intimacy Institute for sex and relationship therapy in Boulder, Colorado, for over 10 years. She holds a doctorate in clinical sexology and a master of education in counseling psychology and marriage and family therapy. In addition, Skyler offers sexological wisdom and advice as the in-house resident expert at Adam & Eve — America’s largest sex toy company.


Jenni Skyler ’03

CC: With so many potential stressors all hitting at once, what tips do you have for partners for maintaining healthy relationships?

JS: Communicate clearly and cleanly. By this I mean that each partner needs to take responsibility for themselves — owning their assumptions, feelings, and needs. This is particularly important during fights. I call this the “responsible repair.” For example — “I can own that I got triggered and yelled out of control. I am sorry. I feel scared about the world right now and it came out as anger. I need some downtime alone to decompress and then some time to quietly connect together.”

CC: When it comes to intimacy right now, what do you recommend partners focus on?

JS: Focus on regulation. This means breathing into the anxiety, fear, anger, and/or confusion. Don’t try to numb or distract away from it (with things like eating, drinking, video games, etc.). Rather, try to breathe into it until you can find calm in your body and nervous system. When both partners are both regulated, then they are taking ultimate responsibility for their anxiety and fear, versus placing that burden on their partner to carry. From here, we can have genuine vulnerability and intimacy.

CC: Anything else you’ve been thinking about a lot that might be helpful to others?

JS: Have fun and give yourself permission for pleasure — no matter what that looks like. We don’t need to earn our fun and pleasure. It’s actually our birthright!