Today we have a serious problem with community mental health services. I am speaking of non-profit mental health organizations who treat mental health patients with a mindset of a factory manager. This is beneficial if you are Ford Motors not to treat people with serious diseases. But that is exactly what is taking place.
Our health care system is not motivated by patient care rather it is a money motivated system ran by chief financial officers who are not practitioners. Most mental health practitioners within community mental health centers care for their patients. They have spent at the minimum 6 years of formal education 2 years of graduate work involving internships and supervision. Providers need another 2 years under direct supervision before receiving a independent license.
We always hear of the burn out rate with mental health care counselors. Why is this? I have first hand knowledge of this field, so I will explain why burnout takes place. A new graduate of a master’s program in mental health takes a job at a mental health care facility with a mission to help people. They know the pay is not great, the job is a public service. Yet to receive a full license to practice you need 2 years of supervision. Mental health care facilities take advantage of this necessity. They can bring on fresh graduates and pay them under market rates because they know that they need the supervision.
The day in the life of a therapist who work at community mental health care facilities is that of a production line. They even call it “productivity.” In an 8 hour shift the therapist is scheduled with 10 clients who will see the therapist for 45-minute sessions. That is seeing people back to back without a break. These therapists are lucky to get a lunch and employers can get away with it because they are salary. Of course, they try to account for cancellations. God forbid that the therapist can get caught up on paperwork. Patient care which is touted as the highest of goals is the last thing the leadership, if they like it or not cares about.
Patients are not getting adequate care because they are seeing burnt out therapist who are trying there best to survive in a system that is money driven. Ask anyone who has ever worked in community mental health; the work load verses compensation is greatly unbalanced. Yet these warriors will continue for the love of their patients even if they become patients themselves.
It is time for a change in community mental health services. People need quality mental health services, and this will not happen when the providers are burnt out. Counselors can’t wait till they can land a job outside of the non-profit world. I understand that these organizations need money to survive, the problem is much deeper than the organizations. The major problem involves lack of funding and support for mental health in general.
How do we fix this problem? We need to find a way to place patient care above money. We need to give mental health counselors a break between patients to decompress from intense sessions which takes a toll on the provider. Mental health organizations should not be running like a factory.
Mental Heal Crisis!
The United States has a serious mental health crisis and within this crisis is the ones who provide the counseling services. Without change we will not be able to better help those who spent years of their lives to learn to serve those in need. Our mental health care providers are heroes who go into the worst of the worst scenarios with patients. These unsung heroes deserve a life. They deserve adequate pay without the slave labor.
I know my answer to the problem will not be beneficial because there is not enough funding for this change. I propose that a counselor see only 5 patients per day. Providers should be required to take breaks and lunches. Providers should receive adequate pay for the services they provide. Counselors should never have to do paperwork at home. Seems simple, but if this was put in place the community mental health centers would close their doors for lack of funds. How do we fix this problem?