COVID-19 has taken a sledgehammer to our collective psyche, producing anxiety, fear and depression for many people. To help navigate these turbulent times, the following Phoenix-based mental health professionals offer some valuable advice from their psychological tool kits.

“The single most useful thing anyone can do in any crisis is to focus on what’s in your control,” therapist Judith McHale explained. “Because what you do, here and now, can make a huge difference to yourself, anyone living with you, and to the surrounding community.” 

How do we do this? Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, focus and engage in what you are doing, and commit to your core values. What do you want to stand for in the face of this crisis? What sort of person do you want to be as you go through this? How do you want to treat yourself and others? Your values might include love, respect, humor, patience, courage, honesty or kindness. Look for ways to “sprinkle” these values into your day. Let them guide your actions.

— Judith McHale, MA, LPC; 4500 N. 32st St.; 602-540-9963;


As a teen and parent mindset coach, Vanessa Baker works with both sides of the relationship to create awareness, connection and growth.

“To rekindle your relationship with your teen, I’d advise giving yourself a break from talking about grades, tests and chores,” Baker explained. “Be with your teen with no agenda. Give yourself permission not to worry and stress about the stuff that normally consumes you. Also, be interested in things you ordinarily wouldn’t be. Dive a little deeper. Be curious about what your kids are fascinated with.”

Vanessa Baker has a Facebook group for parents of teens during this period of social distancing.

— Vanessa Baker Mindset: Build a Bridge Everyday Challenge;



“It’s imperative to maintain contact with other people now,” clinical psychologist Melissa Estavillo said. “In general, we don’t advocate for technology, since human contact is the best. At this time, though, it’s critical to increase social support with our loved ones and friends. Don’t try to curb your anxiety alone; it’s essential to listen to your anxiety and talk to people.” 

Estavillo said that distraction and avoidance might work temporarily, but stress will still be in your body. “What can be detrimental now is binge-watching the news. We need to be informed since things are changing daily, but constantly watching the news can be overwhelming and cause anxiety. More than an hour a day can be harmful.” Estavillo said a positive thing to do is gratitude journaling. Look for small things that you can acknowledge and are grateful for that you might otherwise overlook.

— Dr. Melissa Estavillo, licensed clinical psychologist; Biltmore

Psychology and Counseling; 6245 N. 24th Pkwy.; 480-999-7070;