COVID-19 & the Growing Need for Mental Health Professionals
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for the services of mental health professionals was higher in the 21st century compared to years past. Expanded coverage by many insurance companies encouraged people to pursue help. Also, the stigma surrounding seeking treatment declined, leading affected individuals to come forth rather than suffer in silence.
However, nobody anticipated the astronomical cry for assistance experienced in 2020.
Just how much of a toll is the COVID-19 pandemic taking on people’s well-being? Adults from the general population surveyed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in late June 2020 reported “considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19.” Findings included:
- 31 percent of respondents reporting anxiety/depression symptoms
- 13 percent starting or increasing substance abuse
- 11 percent seriously considering suicide
It comes as no surprise, then, that many psychology-related professions make the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s (BLS’s) list of Bright Outlook Occupations – jobs projected to grow faster than average over the period of 2018 to 2028. Might one of these positions be a good match for you?
Empathetic people with strong listening and communicating skills often succeed in roles in the mental health field. Here’s a look at a few specific career options:
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
When people have an addiction or other sort of problem behavior, they often turn to one of these professionals. Counselors evaluate the situation and offer strategies on how to improve. They may teach ways to better manage stress and put individuals in touch with support groups.
Common employers include hospitals, residential treatment facilities, outpatient centers, and the government. During COVID-19, many people were directed to these counselors through their EAP (Employee Assistance Program) – voluntary, work-based intervention programs for employees experiencing personal problems.
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors tend to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Ones with a master’s degree can offer more services. The BLS projects employment in this field to grow a whopping 25 percent. Median annual wage as of May 2019 was $46,240.
Marriage and Family Therapists
The pandemic put a great deal of stress on many couples and families. Financial difficulties, quarantining together, and different outlooks on how to handle the chaos going on in the world led some people to seek outside help to repair relationships.
Marriage and family therapists assist with issues such as communication, expressing emotions, and changing unhealthy behavior. Their work oftentimes involves interaction with multiple members of the household in order to evaluate dynamics and actions.
Marriage and family therapists generally possess a master’s degree in psychology or related field and complete post-degree clinical training in order to become licensed. The BLS projects 22 percent growth in this occupation. Median annual wage as of May 2019 was $49,610.
When a student suffers from depression, anxiety, or similar problem, a school psychologist often is the first person to recognize the situation and take action. Spotting signs of trouble, however, became harder this year as institutions dealt with distance learning and hybrid arrangements.
Whatever the environment, however, school psychologists aim to improve the well-being of students. They may offer coping strategies and relaxation techniques, take measures to help victims of abuse, and respond to potential cases of self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Sometimes, they simply act as a sounding board for students who need a good listener. School psychologists also evaluate learning problems and work with students and their teachers to address issues.
School psychologists typically hold a graduate degree. Growth of the occupation is projected as faster than average (defined as 11 percent or higher), and median annual wage in 2019 was $78,200.
For further information about these and other mental-health careers, check out:
- American Psychological Association
- NAADAC: The Association for Addiction Professionals
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
- National Association of School Psychologists
By Beth Hering