Mental health among therapists

Aaron Beck is an American psychiatrist and is regarded as the father of cognitive behavioural therapy. He has said that therapists who see more than three patients with depression a day are likely to feel drained and low in mood by the end of the day. He described depression as being catching.

It takes a lot of drive and energy to help someone suffering from mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. In today’s changing landscape of mental health care, in an already difficult job that takes its toll mentally, clinicians are being put under increased strain.

They are increasingly expected to see more patients in a shorter time period and achieve better recovery rates, and many therapists are experiencing pay cuts. Therapists are being asked to do more for less whilst still being held accountable for the work they do.

A day in the life of a therapist

Imagine a day in the life of a therapist. You wake up, faced with a hectic commute in London - an hour to work on a busy tube. It’s unpleasant, crowded and stressful. No doubt this is the same story for millions of other workers, but their day ahead may differ greatly from yours.

You arrive at work and open your inbox to find you have received several emails and messages from patients overnight, saying that they are vulnerable. One in particular you consider to be high risk. Though you have patients waiting for appointments in the clinic, you need to deal with this immediately, and you have no choice but to run late for your clinic. Your first patient of the day is already complaining and becoming distressed. But you are accountable for the high risk person’s life.

When your first appointment does begin, the patient is stressed and upset. As a therapist you must remain calm. It takes a lot of energy and thought to reassure them and be attentive to their concerns. All the while you are still worried about the high risk patient. It is important to you that they are being looked after. Did the police find them? Did they get to A&E safely? Will they be treated properly or discharged prematurely?

Your second appointment of the day begins. The patient is severely depressed and their condition has worsened since your last session. You put a lot of energy into the session. You really care about them and want to see them feel better. You see more patients and miss lunch as your schedule is still behind from the morning.

In the afternoon, you have a meeting with your manager and your colleagues to discuss caseloads and progress. Your recovery rate has dropped and is low when compared with the other therapists. In the meeting your manager says you’re not meeting recovery targets. You need to see more patients. You need a bigger caseload. You feel exhausted and demoralized.

The reality of the situation for therapists

While the above story is only imaginary, it is a story that will sound all too familiar with many therapists and psychologists who are struggling to cope in an increasingly challenging career. Findings from the British Psychological Society and New Savoy staff wellbeing survey in 2015 show that 46% of psychological professionals surveyed report depression. Almost half report feeling they are a failure.

While there is no clear one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, Ieso Digital Health’s new model of working is enabling therapists to regain control over their careers. Therapists can work as and when suits them, from the comfort of their own home, with access to supportive and collaborative training. To find out more about becoming an Ieso therapist, call Sarah Bateup on 01954 230 066 or visit www.iesohealth.com/recruitment.

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