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Psychologists Struggle To Meet Demand As Mental Health Crisis Sweeps U.S.

New survey found the Largest Increase In Patients Is Among Adolescents

Demand for mental health services continues to climb as more people seek out treatment for depression, trauma- and stressor-related disorders, and substance abuse disorders, according to new survey data from the American Psychological Association (APA).

Since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 8 in 10 psychologists (79 percent) report an increase in the number of patients with anxiety disorders, 64 percent have seen an increase in demand for trauma treatment, and nearly half (47 percent) saw spikes in requests for substance abuse treatment.

“We had a workforce shortage before the pandemic where we just didn’t have enough therapists to meet the mental health needs of this country,” said Vaile Wright, a senior director of health-care innovation at the American Psychological Association. “And that’s only gotten worse.”

The survey shows a surge in mental health service needs for young people and health care workers. The largest increase was in patients between the ages of 13-17. Forty percent of psychologists reported increased demand for children under 13, and 46 percent say the number of health care workers seeking treatment has climbed since early 2020.

“I’m turning a lot of people away, and it’s heartbreaking. It’s really heart breaking,” explained Susan Duncan, a counselor in Tucson, Arizona. “I think a lot of therapists are just really over — they’re maxed out.”

Psychologists, whose workloads have increased because of surging demand for mental health services, are reporting feeling burned out, with 60 percent seeking counseling for themselves to manage burnout.

According to the APA, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and trauma- and stressor-related disorders in 2022 were about as prevalent as in the year prior. However, two-thirds of psychologists say they have seen an increase in the severity of symptoms among patients in 2022.

“Having timely access to psychological services is critical for addressing the needs of those diagnosed with behavioral health challenges,” APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, said in a press release. “But we need to tackle this problem with a variety of solutions, beyond individual therapy. We need to support and expand the workforce, promote integrated behavioral health into primary care, improve mental health literacy, use technology and innovation to expand reach and improve efficiency.”

The APA survey was conducted between Sept. 20 to Oct. 7 and sampled approximately 62,900 doctoral-level active licensed psychologists in the U.S.

 A total of 2,295 practitioners participated in the survey.

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