What are the Challenges Faced By Psychotherapists
Hundreds of millions of mental illness patients rely heavily on psychotherapists for treatments. These psychotherapeutic treatments put a heavy responsibility on the should of these psychotherapists.
To note, psychotherapists are also human, and while absorbing the problems raised by people with a mental health condition, they are also susceptible to a higher risk of mental health problems themselves.
Psychotherapists provide consultations to people with mental health conditions daily. In these consultations, patients relate their mental and emotional challenges to the psychotherapists, who, in turn, provide counseling or speech therapy to the patients. A worrying trend of consistent exposure to these challenges could potentially expose psychotherapists toward mental illness.
Psychotherapists also faced the wrath of challenges in their course of professional work, and some of these issues may have contributed to potential work exhaustion: –
A chronic state of physical and emotional depletion that results from an excessive job, personal demands, and continuous stress. Emotional exhaustion creates a feeling of being emotionally overextended and exhausted by work and manifested by both physical fatigue and a sense of feeling psychologically and emotionally “drained.”
Needless to explain, these exhaustions are caused by constant exposure to patients’ consultation and absorbing these problems throughout the professional work.
Psychotherapists Have to Work Long Hours
Psychotherapists, on average, provides daily consultations for 8 to 10 patients, or 30 to 40 patients per week. After every patient consultation, the psychotherapist needs to manage patient progress, goal setting, and other administrative works to update the patient records.
The record-keeping task takes up a lot of tedious working hours that add to the total workload and causing the psychotherapists to be worm out by the end of the working day.
Psychotherapy is a Stressful Job
Managing patients is never an easy task. Providing psychotherapy for every patient adds cumulative stress emotionally and mentally. Not to mention maintaining the patient relationship, administrative work, patient recruitment, personal family issues, long working hours, etc. All these issues add up to a stressful job that contributes to a high annual staff turnover rate exceeding 33% for psychotherapists,
Overwork, Stress, and Feeling Undervalued
We have gone through many reasons that contributed to the overwork and stress environments for psychotherapists. Now, what about being undervalued?
In the psychology profession, there is lesser professional and patient recognition for psychotherapists and counselors as compared to other medical specialists. For mental recovery, there is no absolute certainty that a psychotherapist can measure patients’ recovery.
Apart from stressful work-patient environments, recognition, patient recovery, etc. as challenges, many psychotherapists also feel undervalued and underappreciated in their contributions.
Increasingly Stretched and Under-Resourced
Globally, the number of psychotherapists per 100,000 population is limited, with many countries having less than 10. Simply, this means, on average of 1 psychotherapist per 10,000 people. However, in most countries at any given time, 10% of the population has mental issues.
Taking a country of 10 million population, technically, we will have a psychotherapist population of 100, but a mental patient population of 1 million people. This means one psychotherapist per 10,000 patients, which is overwhelmingly stretched.
So, what about being under-resourced? There is NO detection or analysis of mental illness except diagnosis given by the psychotherapist. Every individual mental patient needs to undergo psychoanalysis by the psychotherapist to determine the condition. But given the growing complexities of many different types of mental illness, the psychotherapists may not be able to cope and to provide the best possible solution or answer for every case.
Support at Work is Insufficient
The mental healthcare industry is hugely overwhelmed with patients and challenges that support is stretched far and thin.
Many health organizations are not placing enough emphasis on mental health, which leads to insufficient support rendered to psychotherapists and the patients.
This support problem is due to insufficient recognition of mental health problems in many countries, but fortunately, the situation is improving in the last decade.
Harassment, Bullying, and Abuse are Common Challenges for Psychotherapists
It’s a shame when psychotherapists suffer harassment, bullying, and even abuse from patients, where these professionals are trying their very best to help.
This abuse are especially common among the younger psychotherapists, who might not have adequate interpersonal skills to handle it. Such abuses are common reasons to cause more than 33% of psychotherapists to quit their jobs or to switch professions entirely.
Psychotherapists Have an Erratic Work Schedule
Challenging working hours is another problem for psychotherapists, especially when patients are only able to meet during lunch and after office hours and even on weekends.
More than 40% of psychotherapists suffer burnout as a result of unpredictable working hours, and this has caused psychotherapies to be less effective and productivity to fall.
Psychotherapists Have to Build a Relationship With Other Healthcare Operators to Solicit Patients
Psychotherapists need to build relationships with other healthcare providers such as general practitioner clinics and hospitals on patient recruitment. Such relationship building is extremely time-consuming, tedious, and costly, especially when meals and gifts are involved to warm these relationships.
Not to mention those kickbacks needed to incentivize patient referrals. Sometimes, as much as 50% rebates are given to these healthcare providers when the competition gets stiff.
Insufficient Training During Post-Grad Study
The academic textbook can only get the psychotherapists so far with basic knowledge to handle patients. Unfortunately, more than 75% of psychotherapists are not adequately trained with the skillset and experience to manage patients’ complex situations.
The lack of knowledge sharing is cited as the most common reason for the inability to handle more challenging conditions or mental illnesses.
Insufficient Recognition is Given to the Psychotherapists
More than 40% of psychotherapists felt that they are not professionally recognized as a healthcare professional, and more than 50% felt undervalued. Given the lack of global recognition on mental healthcare, this is a natural cause of the lack of attention. Societies have some elements of shame on people with a mental health condition, and this leads to psychotherapists perceived as an unwelcome profession.
Pay / Salary
Comparing to their medical peers in the healthcare industry, the salary difference between psychotherapists and other medical practitioners can be as high as 60%. In other words, for every dollar paid to doctors and surgeons, psychotherapists are only paid 40 cents or less.
The pay scale difference is a severe determination factor that discourages many professionals from embarking psychotherapy as a career.
Clients Think of Psychotherapy as a Short-Term Process
On average, 50% of patients take up to 15 to 20 sessions on the recovery of mental illness. Still, a more realistic situation of 20 to 30 sessions over 6 months is deemed as more practical for recovery. Unfortunately, patient recovery is judged without scientific proof, but only mental or emotional feelings.
Evidence has indicated that more than 90% of patients will suffer a relapse of the same mental illness throughout their lifetime, or a 50% relapse within 2 years. Such evidence has contradicted patient recovery and the understanding that psychotherapy is hardly a short-term process.
Ethical Issues About Information Disclosure, Confidentiality
Patients have suffered ethical issues on their privacy, information disclosure, and confidentiality as a result of seeking psychotherapy treatments. When seeking employment, some patients are required to declare if they have sought treatment for mental illness-related issues. The interconnectivity of healthcare databases also poses another problem to patients’ privacy.
More than 70% of people with a mental health condition are uncomfortable to share their illness even to their spouses or family members. However, during times of emergencies that are life-threatening, this makes it even more challenging for psychotherapists to handle these ethical issues with the patients’ next-of-kin.
Lack of a Directory for Psychotherapists
Many psychotherapists have cited a lack of professional directory in many countries, which leads to a lack of professional recognition. In many cases, psychotherapists would only appear as an employee or doctor on the clinic or hospital’s website, and that’s probably the maximum exposure or recognition given to them.
Too Much Administrative Work
On average, more than 80% of psychotherapists provide consultations to 6 to 8 patients daily and a weekly average of 30 to 40 patients. At the end of every consultation, the psychotherapists need to update the patient records, which consumes a considerable amount of time, given the lengthy treatment sessions. Patients’ conditions, goal settings, progress reports, analysis are just some common points to add to the administrative patient record keeping.
On average, 30% of the psychotherapists’ spend their time on administrative work. Adding the number of patient consultations and lengthy administrative work drives the psychotherapists into overdrive mode.
Psychotherapists are humans too. They have their own family to look after, besides their professional commitment. Spending long and odd hours at work makes things tougher at home. Patients’ problems, abuses, stress, exhaustion, etc., just add on to their list of issues.
Unfortunately, more than 30% of psychotherapists are found to have mental illness in the course of their career. Similar to many patients who choose not to seek treatment, these psychotherapists suffer mental illnesses in silence, where some of their family members are not making things easy.
What’s the Key Takeaway Here?
The life of a psychotherapist is filled with many challenges at a professional and personal level. It’s glad to know that these challenges have been globally identified, and efforts are well underway to assist psychotherapists in their endeavor.
As a society, recognition is much appreciated, and as a patient, respect is much required. From the workload perspective, simplicity and automation are crucial to minimizing the amount of administrative work. Training and sharing of professional knowledge will help to equip psychotherapists to be more effective in their therapy sessions.
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