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My Telehealth: Virtual counseling helps mother overcome trauma

Christy Pleasant Cabaniss joins a virtual counseling session with SC Safe Seniors from her home.
SCETV/SC Public Radio
Christy Pleasant Cabaniss joins a virtual counseling session with SC Safe Seniors from her home.

This story is part of series marking Telehealth Awareness Week 2023. You can find more reporting here.

When Christy Pleasant Cabaniss saw a sign reading ‘Are you over 50 and have you experienced trauma?’ it dawned on her that the chronic medical uncertainty she had dealt with for two decades had been traumatic.

The posting belonged to South Carolina Safe Seniors, a grant-funded program at the College of Nursing at the Medical University of South Carolina which offers free mental health counseling to older adults who have experienced abuse, neglect or trauma. Cabaniss sought treatment and initially received counseling services in-person, then the sessions switched to a virtual format through telehealth.

“I was surprised to find (telehealth) was great,” Cabaniss said. “Once you already know the practitioner you can really zero in on them. It’s really intimate and a little more intense because there’s no distractions.”

Theresa Skojec is a licensed professional counselor and manager of Mental Health Services for SC Safe Seniors. She supports older adults who might be intimidated to try telehealth for the first time. Skojec walks seniors through the process, teaching them how to operate their device and connect to the virtual counseling session.

“Most people really seem to enjoy (telehealth),” Skojec said. “They love the convenience of it; they like that they don’t have to go anywhere and it makes it much easier for them.”

Before telehealth, Skojec and other counselors drove to each patient’s home to meet in- person. This limited their range to the Lowcountry. But telehealth has allowed them to expand their services throughout the entire state.

“Telehealth is so helpful because I can thoughtfully see more patients when I would (otherwise) have to be scheduling out time for travel,” Skojec said. “It’s good for those individuals because they're able to see a provider that they would not have had access to if they’re in a rural area.”

To contact SC Safe Seniors email: ElderAbuseHelp@musc.edu