Response to Uptick in Mental Health Issues Among Providers
December 6, 2022
Because of the increase in mental health struggles since the pandemic, care providers have had to adapt to higher demand for services as well as at times, change their approach.
Dr. Jeff Steffenson is a clinical psychologist who both works at BSM and runs his own private practice. He thinks that the pandemic might have caused a loss of social skills, negatively affecting students’ relationships with others. The other major area that continues to be affected by the pandemic is, according to Steffenson, academics.
“I think there [were] two years of some missing stuff going on because a lot of the classes were teleclasses…I think that affects kids too because they’re frustrated sometimes especially with classes like math and things where they feel like they’re behind and I think that that can negatively affect mental health too,” Steffenson said.
For Dr. Sonja Benson, a psychologist practicing marriage and family therapy in Plymouth, the pandemic is in an in-between stage, where people are dealing with pandemic-related stressors even as they see the pandemic as “over.” In “They’re still trying to come back to what they might call a more normal place, and they haven’t. So we’re in this weird in-between, where the pandemic is kind of over, but we’re still having to fight our way back to normal,” Benson said.
As more people turn to mental health care to try and deal with stressors that may have been worsened by the pandemic, Benson sees the demand for therapy overwhelming the number of providers. “…I suspect the issue in not having enough available people was we probably didn’t have a huge surplus, or we might not have had enough in certain places in the first place. And then the increased demand has made it really very, very hard to find somebody that’s got an opening,” Benson said.
They’re still trying to come back to what they might call a more normal place, and they haven’t. So we’re in this weird in-between, where the pandemic is kind of over, but we’re still having to fight our way back to normal,
— Dr. Sonja Benson
On top of affecting providers, COVID has also impacted the methods they use to practice. One of the biggest mental healthcare-related changes is the increased use of telehealth. Before the pandemic, telehealth (or seeing patients online, as opposed to face-to-face) was rare. Now, telehealth is common. In conjunction with increasing telehealth usage, COVID also sped up expansion of PSYPACT. According to the American Psychological Association, PSYPACT is a multi-state agreement to let licensed psychologists practice across state lines in participating states. Both of these things have opened up new opportunities for psychologists, Steffenson included.
“And I have…[patients] in college in Colorado, Arizona, Massachusetts…It’s because of…the fact that tele psychology became a thing. So it’s always been there. But it became huge because of the pandemic. And it was a way to survive as a therapist, but also to be there for people who are really struggling related to it,” Steffenson said.
To adapt to telehealth, a lot of psychologists are getting creative in modifying their therapy strategies. Certain techniques, like EMDR (or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, which is commonly used as a trauma treatment), were previously only used in face-to-face sessions because of how they work.
“People have gotten creative about trying to adapt certain modalities that we always believed had to be in person to being able to do them…One of the things that I know that people are doing and I would have not ever believed it was going to work is EMDR. So they’re finding ways to do EMDR from virtual. And it sounds like there are people that are having good success with that, which is pretty amazing,” Benson said.