As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world in 2020, it brought apprehension, isolation, grief, and uncertainty to millions of people — exacerbating what many experts called a mental health crisis. Though some people turned to therapy as a solution — a third of psychologists surveyed said they were seeing more patients since the start of the pandemic — providers struggled to meet the surge in demand overall. People lamented the waiting lists for therapists and complained of being unable to find a provider, even with the emergence of more online therapy options. While more people saw therapy as a solution, the pandemic helped the country fully recognize the barriers to therapy access that have existed all along.
For this episode of Glad You Asked, I explored whether therapy is for everyone. A 2020 report found that 57 percent of adults suffering from a mental illness received no treatment. Plus, there remains a great disparity in who can access treatment and in who seeks it. In New York City, for example, Black, Latinx, Asian American, and Pacific Islanders are less likely to be connected to mental health care than white New Yorkers. Those without health insurance were less likely to receive mental health care, and the highest-poverty neighborhoods had more than twice as many psychiatric hospitalizations per capita as the lowest-poverty neighborhoods in New York City.
This episode explores some of the biggest questions about therapy: What makes psychotherapy effective? Why do only 55 percent of psychiatrists accept insurance plans? What is causing the therapist shortage? Why aren’t there more therapists of color? Why does therapy carry stigma? How does America’s history of brutalizing the mentally ill affect the field of psychology today? Is psychotherapy the only form of therapy that people should seek? How might alternative forms of therapy help people improve their mental health?
I interviewed countless experts in the field of psychology to answer these questions, and the episode features vignettes from average Americans about their experiences with therapy. I explored a sound bath and equine therapy to go past the mold of psychotherapy. Check out the full episode above to learn more about barriers to accessing therapy and why therapy should be for everyone.
You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. Subscribe for more.
- Community Mental Health Engagement with Racially Diverse Populations, by Alfiee M. Breland-Noble
- Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic, CDC
- Mental health by the numbers, National Alliance on Mental Health
- “Pandemic’s Mental Health Toll Grows,” JAMA
- Madness in the City of Magnificent Intentions: A History of Race and Mental Illness in the Nation’s Capital, by Martin Summers
- The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease, by Jonathan Metzl
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk
- “Evaluating the Efficacy of Equine Therapy Among At-risk Youth: A Meta-analysis,” Anthrozoos
- “Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy in Mental Health,” International Journal of Caring Sciences