Demand for mental health support has skyrocketed in the face of the pandemic. While employers prioritize providing support for them, there simply aren’t enough therapists to go around.
More than 150 million people currently live in areas that have mental health specialist shortage, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. And it’s only expected to get worse — by 2024, experts estimate the country will lack up to 32,000 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, straining an already overburdened system.
To solve this problem, mental health professionals need more training support and a faster licensing process, says Rachel McCrickard, CEO and co-founder of Motivo Health, a virtual licensing platform. While issues such as burnout and retirement are all factors influencing the shortage of therapists, a lack of licensure opportunities trumps them all, especially in high-need areas.
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“New therapists go to graduate school and then have to work under the professional license of another therapist, called their clinical supervisor,” McCrickard says. “They are responsible for finding someone to monitor their hours, and they pay that person for two years.”
McCrickard faced this challenge during her own training—because she lived in a small town in Georgia, she had to drive two hours to Atlanta once a week for her session with her supervisor—a trip many aspiring therapists can’t always afford. do. For those outside of major cities, this licensing requirement can be an impossible hurdle.
“Sixty-four percent of people who get a master’s degree in counseling never finish their classes,” McCrickard says. “That means we’re losing over half of the potential supply of therapists before they even start.”
Inspired by her own struggle and the advent of telehealth and virtual monitoringMcCrickard launched Motivo, which provides aspiring therapists with a network of over 1,000 supervisors licensed in several states and specializing in a number of different areas of counseling.
To begin their supervised classes, a counselor can either pay a $75 per hour weekly fee or work with a group for $55-$65 per hour. Motivo also offers customized pricing for clinics that want to subsidize the cost of supervised hours for their clinical interns. Counselors can then book their introductory call with the supervisor of their choice and begin their sessions.
“I wanted to create an easier way for people in underserved rural areas to finally be able to find a clinical supervisor and complete their classes so they can become fully licensed therapists,” McCrickard says.
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McCrickard also ensures that Motivo’s supply of supervisors is diverse – 37% of theirs clinicians are people of color, and 18% are part of the LGBTQ community. These efforts help counselors feel comfortable with their partner and also contribute to diversity initiatives in the field.
“Clinicians of color are disproportionately affected by the licensing exam,” says McCrickard. “They don’t have the same pass rate as their counterparts, and there are some racial determinants that keep clinicians of color from being able to pass the exam.” So that’s something we’re really looking at.”
By focusing on underserved populations of clinicians, Motivo empowers these individuals to work in underserved communities that are in desperate need of care. The goal is to create more pathways to licensing so that as more people seek help, it will be there for them.
“Our differentiator is definitely what we do in terms of oversight and workforce, but I see a lot of niche approaches, which I think is so important,” McCrickard says. “It serves a different part of a really big problem that is our nation’s mental health.”