Helping Clients Ovecome FONO (Fear of Normal)

CE Hours: 4.0
Instructor: Hailey Shafir, LCMHCS, LCAS, CCS

Wednesday, June 25, 2022, Catholic Charities via Zoom

An emerging body of research shows that most Americans reported negative mental health effects related to the primary and secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates of anxiety, depression, addiction, fatal overdoses and suicide skyrocketed during the pandemic, leading to a mental health epidemic of global proportions. Unsurprisingly, those most affected were the most vulnerable in our society, including kids, teens, young adults, people with pre-existing mental illnesses or other social, cultural, and economic disadvantages. 

The demand for counseling has never been greater, with some research showing that more Americans sought counseling for the first time during the pandemic. While the rise in telehealth has expanded access to care for many in need of treatment, counselors are struggling to meet the increased demand for their services. Higher rates of burnout, vicarious trauma, and personal hardships and impacts related to the direct and indirect effects of the pandemic have further strained our field.

This course will review key findings about the widespread mental health effects of the pandemic, as well as providing insight into how to best support the changing needs of clients in a post-pandemic world. As societies around the world open back up, a growing number of people (including counselors) are struggling with FONO (a fear of returning to normal). A comprehensive overview of FONO will be provided, along with skills to help clinicians recognize and overcome this fear as they return to pre-pandemic routines.

Course learning objectives:

  1. Participants will learn about the most commonly reported mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, associated risk factors, and populations most likely to be affected
  2. Participants will identify signs and symptoms of FONO, which often manifests as symptoms of generalized or social anxiety, phobias, OCD, PTSD or mood disorders and how to differentiate these in clients, families, and themselves
  3. Participants will learn about specific changes in the demand, delivery, and structure of therapy and ways to adapt their practice and approach to continue to improve access and quality of treatment
  4. Participants will learn about individualized methods to support clients and families struggling with post-pandemic transitions, including research-backed and evidence-informed interventions


8:25am-8:45am: Introductions & overview of agenda & course format

8:45am-9:30am: Review of direct and indirect effects of the pandemic on mental illness, risk and protective factors, and populations most likely to be affected

  • Major findings that demonstrate 3x rises in anxiety and depression, 2x rise in SI, 20-30% rise in fatal overdoses, and other concerning findings in recent studies
  • Examples and case studies to illustrate the primary and secondary stressors and risk factors associated with poorer outcomes and declines in mental wellbeing during the pandemic
  • Review of vulnerable populations most likely to experience negative psychological effects related to the pandemic, including kids, teens, young adults, abusive families, or those with other risk factors or disadvantages
  • Review of resilience and protective factors proven to provide a buffer against negative psychological effects related to the pandemic

9:30am-10:30am: Introduction to the term “FONO”, research and studies that illustrate this phenomena, case examples, and differential diagnosis 

  • Defining FONO as “fear of normal” and describing how, when, and why it is an emerging trend in mental health
  • Description of different clinical manifestations of FONO with case examples and researched trends
  • Examining key differences between FONO as an adjustment disorder vs chronic mental health conditions including anxiety and mood disorders, OCD, PTSD, and SUD
  • What to look and listen for when assessing FONO, setting individualized goals for treatment, and making a comprehensive treatment plan to address relevant issues and needs of clients and families

10:30am-10:40am: Break

10:40am-12:00pm: Implications of post-pandemic societal changes affecting the field of mental health and the role, setting, and structure of individual and family treatment, introduction to a variety of evidence-informed interventions to help clients and families with FONO successfully transition to pre-pandemic routines

  • Review of specific impacts on counselors and mental health professionals related to mental wellbeing, burnout and barriers in the delivery of services
  • Burnout prevention, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma and ways mental health professionals can monitor, prevent, and manage these issues to minimize interference in clinical work
  • Discussion of telehealth, continued coverage of telehealth, benefits and challenges for individual and family therapists & ways to optimize engagement and progress online
  • Open dialogue about safety protocols for those returning to in-person work in office or home settings and assessment of pros & cons of virtual vs in-person treatment
  • Evidence-informed interventions for clients experiencing different clinical presentations of FONO:
    *Exposure therapy for anxious, avoidant or phobic clients struggling with avoidance
    *Stress management, burnout prevention, and ways to help working individuals self-advocate in work settings
    *Case management services to support clients struggling to transition including ADA and
    IEP accommodations, ESA letters, and other methods of advocacy,
    * Behavioral activation for individuals struggling with depressive symptoms, social withdrawal, and avoidance
    * Trauma-informed interventions for individuals and families who experienced trauma, loss, or hardship during the pandemic
    *Lifestyle medicine for kids, teens, parents, and families including reduction of screentime, emphasis on quality time and family activities, and open communication and support
    *Social skills, conflict resolution and communication training to improve confidence, reduce social anxiety, and prepare kids, teens, and adults for a return to in-person social and vocational activities
    *Collaborative work with caregivers and school personnel to support kids and teens struggling socially or academically in schools
    *Stress management techniques including relaxation training, mindfulness, healthy lifestyles, CBT reframing, acceptance, self-compassion, and other proven remedies to aid regulation

12:20-12:35pm: Wrap up, summary, and Q & A

About The Trainer
Hailey Shafir is a licensed clinical mental health counselor, a licensed addiction specialist, and a board-approved clinical supervisor for newly licensed mental health and addiction counselors. She has more than a decade of experience providing counseling, developing programs for at-risk youth, people struggling with addictions, and providing training and supervision for clinicians. She is the owner of several businesses including Keep Counsel, Plan-it Therapy, IndyWind, and Therapy Cred. Hailey is also a content writer and medical peer reviewer for, the National Drug Helpline, Choosing Therapy, Rehab Adviser, Searchlight, Social Pro Now, and other sites, and has worked to develop online recovery apps and programs for people struggling with addictions and impulse control disorders.


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