Demand for treatment for anxiety and depression remained high for the third year in a row, as demand for treatment for trauma and stress-related disorders and substance use increased.
Demand for mental health treatment continues to grow as many psychologists lack the capacity to add new patients, according to a new study by the American Psychological Association (APA).
“The national mental health crisis continues,” said Arthur S. Evans Jr., Ph.D., APA’s chief executive officer, in a press release. “If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. Psychological science shows that social support is key to developing resilience, so if you have difficulty accessing care in a timely manner, reach out to others to find support and identify ways to cope.”
APA’s 2022 COVID-19 Practitioner Impact Survey assessed how psychologist practice has been changed by the pandemic. The survey collected responses from 2,295 doctoral students, active licensed psychologists in the United States from September 20 to October 7, 2022.
The study showed that demand for treatment for anxiety and depression remained high for the third year in a row, as demand for treatment for trauma and stress-related disorders and substance use disorders also increased. For example, 6 in 10 GPs said they no longer had vacancies for new patients, approximately 46% said they could not meet the demand for treatment, and approximately 72% had longer waiting lists than before the pandemic began.
Psychologists report that they are contacted by an average of more than 15 potential new patients per week seeking care. The survey also found that almost 8 in 10 psychologists have seen an increase in the number of patients with anxiety disorders since the start of the pandemic. In addition, 66% saw an increase in seeking treatment for depression.
Approximately 47% experienced an increase in seeking substance use treatment and 64% saw an increase in seeking trauma treatment. Two-thirds of psychologists in the study reported an increase in symptom severity among patients in 2022.
The survey also found a growing demand for mental health services from young people and health workers. Across all age groups, the greatest increase was seen in 13-17 year olds seeking care, with 46% of psychologists reporting an increase in the previous 12 months. Many psychologists also saw an increase in patients between the ages of 18 and 25 and children under 13 over the same period.
Roughly half of psychologists have seen an increase in healthcare workers seeking treatment since the start of the pandemic.
“Timely access to psychological services is critical to addressing the needs of those diagnosed with behavioral health challenges,” Evans said in a news release. “But we need to tackle this problem with different solutions, beyond individual therapy. We must support and expand the workforce, encourage the integration of behavioral health into primary care, improve mental health literacy, use technology and innovation to expand reach and improve efficiency. But most importantly, we need to expand our paradigm for addressing behavioral health—especially if we are to successfully address health disparities—using more public health strategies to reach people earlier and in the places where they live, work, play and worship.”
The survey also found that 11% of psychologists see all patients in person, up from 4% in 2021. The use of telehealth is still growing, with more than half of psychologists seeing some patients remotely and some in person, and 31% seeing all patients via telehealth, down from 47% in 2021.
Due to the increase in demand, 45% of psychologists said they felt burned out. However, most psychologists said that they either sought peer counseling or support to deal with burnout, were able to practice self-care, and were able to maintain a positive work-life balance.
The increased need for mental health care is straining capacity. American Psychological Association. November 15, 2022. Accessed November 16, 2022. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/11/mental-health-care-strains#:~:text=Nearly%20half%20 ( 47%25)%20said symptoms%20among%20patients%20in%202022.