Why therapists say the waiting list is getting longer


This summer, a staggering 880 people were on the waiting list for psychiatric services at Massachusetts General Hospital. The list has grown so large that the hospital has issued an unusual plea to doctors. Please stop asking psychiatric patients for non-urgent treatment.

“Our triage staff are unable to advance this waiting list at the current number of referrals,” said an Aug. 18 letter to doctors.

Earlier this week, a new letter was issued stating that the issue has not yet been resolved. “Help is on the way, but it will arrive later than we had hoped,” it said.

Jeffery Huffman, clinical director of MGH’s psychiatry division, said the demand for mental health care was “unprecedented” and hospitals were understaffed. He said he hoped the new hires would improve the situation “over the next two months.”

This hospital is not unique in its backlog. As cases of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders rise over the course of the pandemic, mental health providers across the country are reporting an overwhelming surge in demand for counseling and care.

“Our doors are being knocked down,” says Kayla Johnson, a licensed psychologist in Tomball, Texas. I wish I could, but I have my limits.”

The American Psychological Association reported last year that seven in 10 psychologists with waitlists said their queues had gotten longer since the pandemic began. Vaile Wright says:

The Washington Post reached out to more than 300 mental health providers, patients and policy experts to better understand this “needs wave,” as one therapist puts it. Although not a scientific sampling, more than half of the therapists who responded describe the difficult situation that long waits for care (sometimes 3 to 6 months or more for him) are the norm.

“I see people suffering. It’s getting worse and worse.

To offset the demand, Dobson created TraumAnon, a 12-tier support group. She has weekly livestreams on TikTok and her Facebook, hosted on Zoom, with 50 to 300 of her attendees. She also hosts regular “therapeutic retreats” in her wooded cabin, where about 35 people discuss coping and other life skill development.

“It’s very unorthodox, but I don’t know what else to do,” she added. target.”

Steve Schlozman, a child psychiatrist at Dartmouth Health Children’s in Lebanon, New Hampshire, said he is beginning to suggest ways around a shortage of therapists that would have been unheard of five years ago.he said he reached out his hand Clerics, school guidance counselors, and even soccer coaches act as de facto therapists for children and adolescents who struggle with depression.

“If he’s really into football, we call him up and tell the coach, ‘I want someone to sit with him once a week. Be sure to let us know,” Schlozman said. “There is a heavy weight on the shoulders of coaches, which is not what they contracted for. “

Colleen Lang, a clinical psychologist and founder of a small group practice of six therapists in Brooklyn and Manhattan, tells potential clients that if they’re willing to meet online, they’ll probably have about a month. He said he could see a therapist. An in-person session can have a wait of nearly six months, she said.

Some therapists said they added evenings and weekend hours to meet demand. Others said they hired interns and therapists to help them during their training. Some stopped accepting insurance. There is also This means less paperwork, higher pay, and more time seeing patients. However, it also means that their services are less accessible to people who cannot afford to pay out of their own pocket.

Maya Polon, a public relations expert in Sacramento who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks, said Kaiser Permanente’s primary care physician was unlikely to secure an appointment with an in-house mental health provider because of the backlog. (A Kaiser Permanente spokesperson said Polon’s PCP “does not respond to individual patient care.”) It took her three months to find a therapist and another eight months to find a psychiatrist to administer her medication, she said.

The process was humiliating and exhausting, she said.

“Experiencing untreated anxiety and frequent panic attacks felt like the process of seeking treatment and psychiatric help was completely debilitating,” Pollon said. Without a friend to help me find the help I desperately needed.”

I asked a therapist for advice on finding mental health care

The longer it takes for people to get help, of course, the worse the symptoms can get.

Christa Karl, a licensed professional counselor in Bloomfield, Colorado, said she noticed that new referrals were experiencing more serious symptoms such as suicidal thoughts, dissociative disorders, and other complex issues. rice field.

“This means that people who are normally in inpatient or intensive outpatient care hospital programs are spilling into private practice,” Curl said. “I feel like this marks a bigger mental health crisis.”

Experts say the crisis is even more acute for children and adolescents. Martha, a single mother of four, asked for her last name to be withheld for the privacy of her children, but she experienced this crisis firsthand.

In the spring of 2020, my depressed 10-year-old daughter swallowed a whole bottle of ibuprofen. After two weeks of hospitalization, the child was discharged on her month’s supply of antidepressants and was instructed to seek a psychiatrist as the hospital had no health care providers.

Martha, a nursing educator in Thornton, Colorado, said she was unable to find a psychiatrist and that her daughter’s primary care physician was uneasy about overseeing medication for such a vulnerable child.

When the child’s medicine ran out, there was no doctor to write a new prescription for a month, so the girl attempted suicide again. “We went through a cycle where no one took her because of her age, no one prescribed her, no one got a referral,” Martha said.

Expansion of the mental health workforce

Last year, more than 129 million people lived in federally designated mental health care “professional hot spots,” and less than a third of the U.S. population had access to a psychiatrist or other mental health care provider. A sufficient number of localities lived for specialists to serve the needs of the people. needs.

The Biden administration is working to increase access to mental health care for adults and children in a number of ways, said Terry Tanierian, the president’s special adviser to the National Policy Council.

For example, the American Rescue Plan includes support for the state’s expanding mental health workforce, including school-based counselors, psychologists, social workers, and crisis management services such as 988 national suicide hotlines and mobile mental health units. includes about $5 billion to support It also includes funds to promote mental health and reduce medical professional burnout.

The President’s Mental Health Strategy also proposes enforcing and expanding the Equality Act, which requires mental health and substance use care to be covered at the same level as other health care, and expands access to telemedicine. The Department of Health and Human Services has announced $315 million for states to “develop and transform” accredited community behavioral health clinics. This provides her 24-hour crisis services to people with mental health or substance use problems, regardless of their ability to pay.

Therapists generally state that the more specialized the care, the more difficult it is to find a provider.

“It’s basically impossible to find a competent queer therapist in Missouri,” said Erin Smith, a licensed clinical psychologist in St. Charles.

She sees approximately 30 patients each week and her caseload is up to 42 clients. “It’s tough to manage,” she said.

Eldridge Greer, a chartered psychologist in Denver, says there has been a “massive shift” in how many clients, primarily in the BIPOC community, view counseling. Historically, he said, “There was some trepidation about doing counseling, about the idea that treatment was for white people.”

But as more athletes and media personalities talked about their depression and anxiety and normalized counseling, attitudes changed. It helped me,” Greer said.

If you’re trying to find a therapist, the main takeaway from your provider is don’t give up. Securing mental health care often comes down to sheer persistence.

Linda Siegel, a New York City pediatric critical and palliative care physician, was spending about $2,500 a month on out-of-network mental health care for her son and herself. A few years later, Ms. Siegel could no longer afford her expenses and stopped her own treatment.

Then a pandemic hit, my father died, and my depression returned. Siegel said he called or emailed at least 20 providers. They were not accepting new patients or no longer accepting her insurance. She tried two of her providers, but neither was suitable, she said.

“Being a doctor and getting treatment is hard,” she said. Finally, Siegel found a young therapist in her network. This therapist was able to help her get through her stressful work life and find her balance. But just a few months later, her employer changed insurance companies and the therapist was out of the network. Seagal was devastated, but eventually a therapist was able to arrange a status change that would allow her to return to the network.

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