Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

The Future of Mental Health Care Is Burning Out

Student clinicians and early career professionals are not immune to burnout.

Key points

  • Along with healthcare workers, student-clinicians and early career professionals play a significant role in the well-being of individuals.
  • Student-clinicians and early career professionals have been present in treating clients and patients across different settings during COVID-19.
  • Student-clinicians and early career professionals are experiencing burnout and are susceptible to challenges and distress brought by COVID-19.

This article was written by Rita M. Rivera, MS, CTP, Denise Carballea, MS, CBIS, and David Benitez, BA, representatives of the Higher Education working group of the COVID-19 Psychological Task Force (st. by 14 divisions of the American Psychological Association).

Mental health care in the U.S. encompasses several distinct disciplines and professions, including psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, and social workers. Along with most healthcare workers, mental health care providers have also been at the frontlines of the pandemic. Furthermore, with experts warning about the unveiling COVID-19 mental health crisis, these providers will increasingly continue to support their clients and patients nationwide in the coming years.

Such is also the case for students in these disciplines (e.g., practicum students, psychology interns, medical residents) and even early career professionals.* These student-clinicians have persevered in their educational pursuits and provided continuous care and psychological support to others, each other, and themselves during a global crisis. Regardless of the program of study, most if not all of the aforementioned mental health students understand at the very beginning of their careers that they are the future of the field. Nonetheless, due to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, the future of psychology and mental health is burning out.

Mental health students and early career professionals have faced the unprecedented task of supporting the nation’s psychological well-being while also attempting to support themselves. These frontline workers have provided services for events and issues they, too, are experiencing.

As mental health student-clinicians and early career professionals grieve the death of loved ones due to the novel virus, they also support clients and patients during their time of grief. Many have been experiencing anxiety, depression, and feelings of uncertainty along with their clients and patients. Although there is no treatment manual on approaching mental health conditions during a pandemic, student-clinicians and early career professionals have been present in treating clients and patients across many different settings and circumstances, while also constituting an invaluable part of COVID-19 medical and psychological research.

Yet, as a field that promotes overall well-being, we must ask ourselves, how much more can we keep going? Who is to support the helpers? Who is to aid those training to be helpers? The psychological impact of the pandemic is still not completely defined, measured, or even fully visible. How can we ensure that our profession will be able to continue attending to the current and the post-COVID-19 mental health crisis when the future of our field seems to be burning out?

In the next part of this series, we will explore various helpful resources some universities, practicum sites, and residency programs may use to support students and early career professionals during these unprecedented times.

About the co-authors: Denise Carballea, MS, CBIS is pursuing her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Neuropsychology and is co-chair of the Higher Education working group of the COVID-19 Psychological Task Force. David Benitez, BA is a Psy.D. doctoral student and a member of the Higher Education working group of the COVID-19 Psychological Task Force.

References

National Alliance on Mental Illness [NAMI]. (n.d.). Types of Mental Health Professionals. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Types-of-Mental-Health-Professionals

*Semantic disclaimer*
While all healthcare students and certainly all healthcare workers deserve resounding merit for their collective contributions and their individual resilience throughout the course of the pandemic, this article seeks to place a spotlight on mental health student-clinicians and early career professionals. The term student-clinicians is used to identify doctoral or master-level graduate students undergoing practicum, internship, or residency. When the term early career professional is used, it is referring to recently graduated providers who have achieved their terminal degrees but still require considerable supervised time before fully qualifying for an unrestricted license to practice in their respective fields (e.g., clinical psychology post-docs, psychiatric residents, and others).

advertisement