Unique work challenges faced by Mental Health Professionals

A couple of days back, while finding nothing else to do on a weekend, I decided to run through some old DVDs to see if something catches my attention. I found an old DVD of the 2003 teen-comedy Freaky Friday and decided to watch it on a whim. While I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the movie, there was a particular scene that intrigued me immensely. The part when the soul-and-body of Jamie Lee Curtis (mother/psychologist) and Lindsay Lohan (daughter) are switched and the professional responsibilities of the psychologist mother fall on the daughter. Of course the scenes of professional counseling and the interview are dealt with ample humor, but it made me think of how challenging the role of a psychologist, psychiatrist or any other mental health professional could be. So why not look at some of the most poignant ones?

Challenges as a Mental Health Professional

5 Challenges faced by Mental Health Professionals

Lack of Appropriate Assessment and Testing Methods

This is by far the most crucial challenge every mental health worker comes by. Western methods of assessment and testing though well-developed are not foolproof especially when taking diverse cultural concepts into context. Linguistic barriers, differences in scale and norms etc. may lead to providing inadequate or erroneous services for diagnosis, therapy, medication etc. Since there is no definitive solution to the problem, it is advisable for professionals to begin with the practice of patient narration. Not only will it help them to understand the patient’s problems and priorities, but will also give them time to assess the problem and identify behavioral traits and patterns for drawing conclusions.

Professional Confidentiality

Trust is the binding factor between a patient and his/her mental health counselor. There are unfortunately times when the trust has to be breached slightly for either a medical cause or a court order. For instance a psychologist may have to reveal details about a patient if his/her physician requires it for medical treatment. This of course raises an ethical question as how much to reveal and hide. It is advisable at such times that counselors communicate the same to their patients and explain the need of the hour, so as to maintain their confidence and remain true to this professional ethics.

 Maintaining Confidentiality as a Mental Health Counselor

Inadequate Funding

It is estimated that in the United States, one in 25 adults required counseling for mental health problem making it necessary to include it prominently in the healthcare systems. Though efforts in this field have been make with the government making way for $115 million for mental health initiatives in 2014, there is much more work required. The challenges grow as one move from urban to rural areas where lack of funding gives rise to more difficulties in assessment, diagnosis and therapy. There are as such many counties in rural USA that lack skilled and practicing social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists due to inadequate funding. Inadequate funding also makes it difficult to provide services in locations such as homeless shelters, refugee camps etc. where the need for counseling services for trauma and crisis are all the more necessary.

Gap in demand and supply

It is obvious that the demand for mental health professionals is more than the supply. Whether it is for psychiatric disorders or psychological problems stemming from poverty, discrimination, family issues, unemployment, bullying etc., the need for mental health services have been on the rise steadily. Several factors including social, political and economic difficulties have given rise to the demand. It is not surprising therefore that professionals often find it challenging to address the demand and provide suitable therapy. Moreover, for non-drug therapy the lack of any comprehensive standards makes it all the more challenging to determine the safety and accuracy of treatment provided.

Extended Working Hours

While the role of no medical practitioner is strictly a 40-45 hours/week job, the pressure is more for a mental health worker. The counselor has to be ready to attend on patients even at odd hours, which often may take a toll on their health and happiness.

To sum it up, it’s no child’s play to become a contemporary mental health worker. With the burden of growing number of ethno-cultural patients their role involves doing more than just offering empathy and empowerment.

Written for Top Healthcare Leads by Megan Andrews. Megan heads the Content Marketing team and loves to travel and take photographs. She has travelled across 7 countries and chronicles her experiences in her personal blogs and social media.

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