Nationwide therapist shortage leaves many trying to find an open appointment

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – About one-in-five U.S. adults suffer from a mental illness in any given…

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – About one-in-five U.S. adults suffer from a mental illness in any given year.

And kids are suffering, too.

The White House calls the rise in rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts among children an “unprecedented mental health crisis.”

Despite a growing demand for mental health services, many still can’t find an open appointment.

Across the U.S., the demand for mental health treatment is growing.

“People are struggling to figure out where to start. What kind of providers exist? What kind of services exist? And, how do you go about finding one?” Jody Baumstein said. Baumstein is a licensed therapist for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life.

The Association of American Medical Colleges said there aren’t nearly enough mental health providers to meet the demand of people who need help.

A 2018 analysis showed the workforce of psychiatrists was shrinking and could drop to a projected low of as many as 31,000 psychiatrists in just two years.

So if you’re struggling to get an appointment with a psychiatrist or a psychologist, Baumstein said don’t limit your search.

“You might want to open up and expand your search to other kinds of clinicians. For instance, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists all of whom can provide that same kind of treatment,” Baumstein added.

To find a potential therapist, Baumstein suggested pulling up online directories, which list providers in your area.

Some employers may offer free short-term mental health benefits but check with private providers on whether they may have clinical interns that can help.

If you’re going through an insurance provider, go over options with them.

“They might not have a provider that meets the exact needs but they might reimburse you for a portion of the costs to see an out-of-network provider,” Baumstein said.

Talk to your primary care provider too, or your child’s pediatrician. They may have insight into clinicians in your community and can refer you.

You can also talk to your child’s school. There may be help available there.

Finally, if you can’t get an appointment right away, get on a waiting list.