How do I find a therapist? Why is it so hard right now

Of all the shortages caused by the pandemic, the shortage of therapists is among the most troubling. The number of people seeking mental health services so far exceeds available appointments that people across America are placed on waiting lists of 10.

It’s one thing not to be able to find toilet paper or hand sanitizer; It’s another to not be able to get help if you are having thoughts of suicide.

As such, there has been a lot of talk lately about how to get more people into therapy. Barriers to care include not only the effort it takes to get an appointment – some people call 30 to 40 offices before they find someone who can take them, The Seattle Times reported – but also heavy insurance requirements that have resulted in a growing number of therapists who will only accept money for a visit that can cost $ 100 or more.

The problem is generally presented as a problem with too few vendors. And there is no doubt that there are good proposals to expand services to reach those who need them most. But other experts have suggested that it’s just as important to have resilient people and caring communities that help reduce the need for therapy in the first place.

In their 2005 book “One Nation Under Therapy”, Christina Hoff Sommers and Dr Sally Satel decried a fragile “aid culture” which is less and less about building a self-sustaining society and more about relying on it. accredited foreigners to guide us. through our personal adversities. While acknowledging that people in crisis are in dire need of professional help, Sommers and Satel argued that all too often therapists deal with the occasional anxiety and sadness, which they say is simply part of the human condition. They warned that excessive soul-searching in some of these cases might actually make people’s sentiment worse.

It’s a delicate balance, of course. On the one hand, it is essential to reduce the stigma that often exists around seeking help when it is most needed. Yet sometimes it is difficult to find vital mental health services when therapists are busy treating low-risk people, some of whom remain in therapy for decades.

The growing demand for therapy may also be influenced by the widely reported fact that Americans have fewer friends and support systems than thirty years ago. According to a June report by Daniel A. Cox and the Survey Center on American Life, “Signs suggest that the role of friends in American social life is in sharp decline. The May 2021 U.S. Outlook Survey finds Americans report having fewer close friendships than before, talking to friends less often, and relying less on friends for personal support.

The pandemic has a role to play in this regard, but Cox noted that other, more lasting factors are at play, including people who spend more time at work and spend twice as much time with their children as adults in the previous generations, “crowding out other relationships, including friendships.

One of the most surprising figures from this survey has been the growth in the number of people who report that they do not have close friends. In 1990, only 3% of Americans said they had no close friends outside of their family; in 2021, more than one in 10 Americans – 12% – said that. In addition, in 1990, 75% of those polled said they had a “best” friend, compared to only 59% of people today. And, of course, Americans marry later, if at all. As Lois Collins wrote for the Deseret News, “When young adults delay marriage and family formation, they’re less likely to either. ”

Finally, the mental health crisis (as describe by The New York Times) cannot be dissociated from the decline in participation in organized religion. Churches and other places of worship have always been places where people made friends and found emotional and even logistical support. In my grandmother’s last years, she found herself more and more alone outside of her family, as her husband and close friends passed away. But she still had a robust social life, almost entirely through the Catholic Church she had attended for 50 years. It is also true that parishioners often look to the clergy for help with difficult problems that may not reach the level of professional mental health counseling.

It is therefore not surprising that people belonging to a religious group have resisted the pandemic better than those who have not. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for example, report strong social bonds that often correlative with better mental health outcomes. Cox told Deseret News’ Tad Walch that Latter-day Saints have experienced less of the “friendship recession” than other Americans.

“In terms of social connections, they’re doing a lot better than your average American. This has a whole series of advantages. We know that loneliness is incredibly damaging to your emotional health, to your physical health, so being rooted in these communities, having people to rely on to deal with something like a pandemic, which for many people was socially isolating, is just an incredibly good position to be in it, ”Cox said.

Americans are often advised not to talk about religion or politics because the topics are too emotional and divisive. But when we talk about mental health or the need for more therapists, we are doing troubled Americans a disservice by not talking about one simple thing that could improve their mental health: joining a church. There is no waiting list.


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