As Demand For Mental Health Care Continues: Technology May Be An Important Answer

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has eased, the demand for mental health care continues to persist.

A newly published 2022 COVID-19 Practitioner Impact survey by the American Psychological Association of U.S. psychologists reports that a growing demand for help with depression, anxiety and substance use issues means many psychologists across the United States are unable to take on new patients.

Over 2,200 licensed psychologists nationwide responded to the APA’s third annual practitioner survey in late September and early October. About 60% said they no longer can take on new patients and 72% said they have longer waitlists than before the pandemic. On average, psychologists said 15 people a week contact them seeking new care.

The survey reported that 79% said they have seen more patients with anxiety disorders since the pandemic began. approximately 66% have seen increased demand for depression treatment; 47% for substance use treatment, and 64% for trauma. About two-thirds of psychologists described the patients’ symptoms as being more severe this year.

Young people, especially 13- to 17-year-olds, represented the largest increases in seeking care. Many psychologists also saw a need for more care in children under 13 and among 18- to 25-year-olds.

Nearly half of psychologists reported a rising number of health care workers seeking treatment since the start of the pandemic. According to Arthur Evans Jr., chief executive officer of the APA, “Having timely access to psychological services is critical for addressing the needs of those diagnosed with behavioral health challenges,” Evans said in an association news release. “But we need to tackle this problem with a variety of solutions, beyond individual therapy.”

He cited the need to support and expand the psychologist workforce; to integrate behavioral health into primary care, and use technology and innovation to reach more patients.

About 11% of psychologists now see all patients in person, up from 4% in 2021. More than half (58%) see some patients remotely and some in person. About 31% see all patients via telehealth.

The APA noted that telehealth can expand access to care for patients from underserved communities, including those in rural areas and people of color. The APA continues to advocate for expanded coverage of telehealth by insurance companies.

With the high patient demand, about 45% of psychologists said they feel burned out. But 60% said they have sought peer consultation or support to manage it. About 77% said they were able to practice self-care and 63% said they have been able to maintain a positive work-life balance.

APA Survey Link