Mental health practice and the financial crisis

I have been thinking a great deal lately about the current financial crisis and how it is affecting our customers and their clients/patients/consumers. Every day, the top news stories are about some aspect of this recession. American Psychological Association (APA) reports in the Monitor on Psychology article Money is the top stressor for Americans that money and the economy are the primary stressors reported by 8 out of 10 people surveyed.

When I practiced psychology, there was a belief that the mental health business was somewhat recession resistant. The thought was that people who are worried about money do everything possible to stay in therapy. But how long can that last? Now that this recession has been with us for a year, it has had the opportunity to spread further than many would have predicted. My colleagues at the Software and Technology Vendor Association (SATVA) meeting I attended in November described the impact that state budget crunches would have on Medicaid and community mental health centers that rely upon that source of funding. Florida is seeing a significant number of foreclosures and layoffs, as are most states. While a client has a job, they may have insurance to cover psychotherapy; after layoff, insurance disappears and the help a client needs can go right along with it.

One of the truly remarkable things about this ongoing crisis is how it emphasizes the personality style of each person in our lives. Those who see the glass as half empty do their best each day, however successfully, to continue to move forward in a positive way without becoming depressed. They may avoid negative information, or they may become obsessed with it. Those who see the glass as half full see opportunity to prosper. They are ever hopeful that the upturn will begin tomorrow; and even if it does not, they will find creative ways to benefit during difficult times.

APA will report in the January issue of the Monitor about the impact of the new economic realities on the field. But I am impatient. I wonder how you are being affected now. Is your organization going on with business as usual or are you seeing cutbacks? Is hiring frozen or does money to fill positions continue to be available? Are your clients feeling the crunch? What do you see for the short and the long term? What is your personality style and how does it affect the way you do business? Are you stopping all spending or buying new computers with 2008 profits? Where do you expect to be financially in the next month? in the next six months? in the next year?

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  • We are going ahead as aggressively as we can with automating processes. Bottom line is that we are in a vicious cycle of overwhelmed staff – money tight – potential layoffs – leads to more overwhelmed staff. The best way out that we see is to make as much of our process automated as possible, and to be able to use that automated infrastructure to manage a wider span of control.

  • My practice is solo, so there are no layoff or salary issues for me. Also I believe that the DC area, with all its government jobs, is less subject to the woes of a recession. We certainly do have foreclosures & job losses even so. Clinically, I am finding that more of my patients are focused on money issues and worries about next steps. Some worry that they will lose their jobs from major institutions like government contractors or even the World Bank. So some days, I can feel the load of depression dropping onto me. Since I am quite close to changing my practice drastically in June 2009 – semi-retirement, change to non insurance based work along with move from Maryland to Massachusetts, I have to remind myself of all the safeguards in place for me and my family. I think self care is more important than ever. My main computer is fairly new, but for retirement, I have replaced my desktop with a brand new 24″ Apple desktop. I won’t run SOS on it, but I am really excited about caataloguing music and photos with it, and also printing after adjustments in Photo Shop. So in the end, my trusty Lenovo laptop will certainly get relief .
    In terms of effects of the recession, it seems to me that my intakes are more likely not continue past one or two sessions, and that EAPS also do not go on after free sessions are exhausted. So it feels like I do more intakes to fill continuing hours. However, I sam still able to fill the time I wish to work. It would be interesting to be able to compare intake rates for years, similar to what we can do already for fees collected, etc (Monthly Summary).
    Hope all of you will have a happy and healthy new year – Warmly – Ann Aukamp

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