Growing proportions of psychologists are planning to decrease their practice hours, possibly due to high-stress levels and increasingly high-acuity patients.
According to a new survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), psychologists are increasingly treating patients with severe symptoms that need longer treatment plans. Psychologists are, therefore, strained with higher workloads and more than a third report feeling burned out.
The study surveyed 561 licensed psychologists between August and September 2023. The APA has conducted this survey under different names annually since 2020, allowing for year-over-year analysis.
The 2023 survey found that over half of psychologists report an increase in the severity of their patients’ symptoms in the last year.
“While this number has stabilized since previous years, psychologists report patients are presenting with worsening symptoms year after year, indicating a continuing crisis,” according to an APA statement.
More than two in five psychologists said that patients’ length of stay was increasing, which diminishes psychologists’ capacity to take on new patients.
More than half of the sampled psychologists said they had no openings for new patients. Among those who maintain a waitlist, more than two-thirds say their patients wait up to three months for an appointment.
Psychologists are increasingly seeing these higher acuity patients in hybrid settings.
Almost 70% of psychologists treat patients through hybrid modalities, representing a steady year-over-year increase.
The number of fully remote psychologists has decreased since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, 80% of all psychologists reported having a fully-remote practice. That number dwindled to 21% in 2023.
Meanwhile, only 13% of surveyed psychologists report seeing all of their patients in person.
The APA suggests that factors like increased workload and more severe patient symptoms are wearing on psychologists.
Most psychologists take measures to care for their mental health, including practicing self-care, maintaining a positive work-life balance and seeking out peer support.
Despite attempts at self-care, more than a third report feeling burned out. The APA suggests that because of this burnout, a growing number of psychologists plan to decrease their practice hours. More than 20% of sampled psychologists planned to reduce their practice hours, up from 16% in 2021.
The survey did report improvements in racial and ethnic diversity among the sampled psychologists’ patients, except for treatment rates of American Indian, Alaska Native, and/or Indigenous people as well as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, the rates for which remained unchanged.
Almost a third of psychologists saw more populations from working poor populations and the LGBTQ+ community.
Along with treating a more diverse population, psychologists were also increasingly treating physical health conditions along with mental health conditions, and often alongside other care professionals.
Half of psychologists report treating chronic pain, 42% reported treating patients with obesity, and more than a quarter reported working with patients with some symptoms of cancer.