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Mental Health

Therapists are Overwhelmed as Caseloads Increase

— December 22, 2021

Everyone is in crisis amid Covid-19 – even therapists.

More than 1,300 mental health therapists were recently surveyed about the state of the country and their feelings about the uptick in need for mental health professionals and nearly unmanageable caseloads.  Some of the most common words they used to describe their positions at the moment are “anxious, overwhelmed, burned out, stuck.”

Therapists can’t keep up with the growing need as more and more people seek help in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.  Caseloads are full and waitlists are stacking up.  People are getting turned away in crisis.  After all, therapists are people living through Covid, too.

Psychology Today sent a survey on behalf of the New York Times to its list of mental health professionals.  “Nine out of 10 therapists” who participated responded the the sheer number of clients seeking care is increasing substantially, and most are witnessing a spike in calls for immediate appointments, longer than usual waiting lists and trouble meeting high patient demand.  This was across the board, in every state.

Therapists are Overwhelmed as Caseloads Increase
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

The survey found that even former therapists have returned to try and meet demand and patients are returning to therapy for the first time in years.  Moreover, “new clients are seeking therapy for the first time for anxiety, relationship problems, racial justice issues, financial stress and other issues” that have recently begun to hit therapists’ radars in the last year and a half.

“These ripple effects are going to be affecting us for some time,” said Leah Seeger, a marriage and family therapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “I believe I will be helping people navigate the effects of the pandemic for the rest of my career.”

“I’m happy that people are actually reaching out for services, but therapists are stressed,” agreed Shatangela Gibbs, a licensed professional counselor in Bloomfield, Michigan, of the increasing caseloads. “I hope there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  But it looks like the next few years it’s going to be pretty high numbers.  I don’t see it going down anytime soon.”

In August, the Delta variant swept across the nation, igniting a new wave of mental health issues.  People all over the country were just beginning to feel as if life may someday “get back to normal.”  And therapists were feelings as if those days of “crisis mode” and an influx of clients served in the beginning stages of Covid-19 could be waning.  Then, the variant struck and so did panic.  As new strands of the virus emerge and uncertainty lingers, there seems like there will be no end to this in sight.

Dr. Jena Lee, board-certified psychiatrist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said, “I think it’s important to remember that the most taxing and stressful thing for all of us at any point in our lives is change, even good or bad, because it requires adjustment and flexibility.”

People, by nature, don’t like change – good or bad, but particularly the bad.  The coronavirus era has been riddled with unsettling, negative, and hard-to-swallow news time and again.

“A 10-year-old boy I work with came up with ‘sad panic mode’ to describe his feeling of overwhelm,” responded Georgie Gray, a licensed independent social worker in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. “I now use this phrase with other kids, and it resonates.”


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