Online therapy platforms have seen a surge in demand even during the pandemic. Mindy Heintskill, the chief growth officer of MDLive, a telehealth provider with more than 62 million members in the U.S., said its online therapy and psychiatric care services increased five-fold in 2020 compared to 2019. Almost half of these patients cited stress and anxiety as Ms. Heintskill added that these were the main reasons for planning their visits.
In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report that found that as of late June, 40 percent of adults in the United States were struggling with mental health problems or substance abuse, and that the rate of depression and anxiety had increased since 2019. Additionally, a study of nearly 190 million emergency room visits found that attendance rates for mental illness, suicide attempts, drug overdose, and child abuse and neglect were higher from mid-March to October 2020 than in the same period in 2019.
While companies offering online counseling or mental health services like MDLive, Talkspace, and BetterHelp have helped improve access for some, mental health experts have stated that these outlets address the chronic inequalities and vendor shortages that are already plaguing the country , cannot tackle it alone.
A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that there is an unequal distribution of psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health nurses in the United States, with deficiencies being more pronounced in non-metropolitan countries.
"Every single person I see needs therapy now"
Ms. Huminski, the Rhode Island psychotherapist, has tried to take in more patients by scheduling people at odd times, but that wasn't enough, she said. She can no longer accept new customers, partly because her current customers are looking for more sessions than in the past. She would offer to make referrals, she added, but "no one has any vacancies right now."
Even Ms. Huminski's local hospital, which has an intensive therapy day program to which she sometimes refers patients, is busier than usual. In the past, she said, it would normally take up to four weeks for her to arrive. Now, she added, it's been about four months.
Feb. 17, 2021, 10:09 p.m. ET
Jennifer Kittler, a clinical psychologist also based in Providence, said she, too, had almost no availability for new clients in the past 10 months. As her case load has risen, she is taking steps to prevent burnout.