The mental health ecosystem has been financially neglected for decades. The result: this reality that we find ourselves in, as depicted by a sobering graph from the New York Times of people who literally reached out for help and gave up before getting it.
Let that sink in.
In this phenomenal bit of investigative reporting, the New York Times found various instances when people reached out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) only to find that it wasn’t actually an option.
While 988 and the current NSPL are part of the mental health ecosystem, one of the things they consistently find is that there aren’t enough therapists to staff the centers. While there are a myriad of reasons why, we at Simply Psych propose two areas for improvement:
- Allow therapists to make what they’re worth
- Make it easier for therapy practices to scale by decreasing their debt load
Allow therapists to make what they’re worth
Employed therapists are capped with their earnings. Be it an agency, group practice, or mega-corp (like the slew of virtual therapy companies popping up everywhere), employed therapists are required to accept the pay structure they sign on to. Oftentimes this means an hour rate plus benefits; bear in mind that “benefit” packages are constantly changing, and – with the increase in health insurance costs – the packages are getting smaller.
Employers have to generate revenue in order for the finances to exist to pay the employed therapist. This means the employer is incentivized to keep pay as low as possible. It’s a spiral and ethos that’s hard to break, especially for therapists who have yet to embrace their inner entrepreneur.
Tying employed therapists’ compensation to reference points in the direct care industry would serve to improve the pay rates of employed therapists; but remember: there’s no incentive for employers to do so. Thus, this type of relief is not likely on the horizon.
Make it easier for therapy practices to scale by decreasing their debt load
This option is very popular. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) “forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.”
While this sounds great in theory, the program has a way of “trapping” therapists into roles and responsibilities that are inflexible. Ten years is a long commitment, and, given the limited number of positions that meet the “qualifying employer” criteria, it can become problematic to match therapists to agencies.
Worse, for those therapists in private practice who offer sliding scale and pro-bono work, there is no incentive for them at all. The burden of improving access to care falls on the individual entrepreneurial therapist rather than on the system (where it rightfully should).
We must find ways to support mental health clinicians as they do the heavy lift of shouldering our nation’s journey to self improvement. Simply Psych’s passion is autonomy and efficiency; helping mental health clinicians know their worth and offer their unique skillsets to those who need it most. Check us out at www.SimplyPsych.com.
Find us wherever you are.