May 1, 2023 – Post-pandemic, more people are seeking help from therapists, many for the first time, and most often to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression, according to the results of a new national mental health survey issued on April 27 by Grow Therapy, an online marketplace offering access to mental health providers.
This is the second year the company did the survey, and it produced some very similar results as last year, said Shannon Tremaine, a company spokesperson. “The most consistent were that in both years, the therapists have noted increases in people seeking therapy. Stress, anxiety, and depression continue to be the top three areas people are looking for help with.”
The survey questionnaire was posted in the platform’s private online community of about 5,000 therapists from February 28 to March 22, 2023, Tremaine said, and 266 responded. The respondents are in private practice in 18 states and represented a range of mental health providers, including licensed marriage and family counselors, doctors of psychology (PhDs), licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional clinical counselors, and licensed mental health counselors.
- Just over a third of the therapists surveyed (34%) said anxiety and stress are the most common reasons people seek their help, followed by depression (15%), trauma (9%), and romantic relationship issues (8%).
- Millennials, ages 27 to 42, are the most likely to be in therapy currently. More than half of the therapists (53%) said that age group makes up the majority of their client list.
- Most respondents (83%) said they have seen an increase in people seeking therapy for the first time. Compared to last year, 42% of the therapists said the number of people seeking therapy "increased significantly."
- Nearly all respondents said news and social media use can negatively affect mental health. But just 8.3% said all news consumption is harmful. Half said spending more than a couple of hours a week on social media can be harmful, but only 4% believed all social media is harmful.
- Stigmas about seeking help remain, but almost half of the therapists (47%) said open and honest conversations with family and friends, including positive comments on social media, are important to normalize seeking mental health help.
- Besides the therapy sessions, therapists are most likely to recommend exercise (23%), time with loved ones (22%), spending time with nature (17%), spending time alone or meditation (16%), or joining a support group (11%) to improve mental health outside of the sessions.
- Many providers stressed the need for patience over quick fixes; 87% of respondents said that to see results from therapy, you'll typically need anywhere from two to 10 sessions.
Brian Wheeler, a licensed independent social worker in Washington, DC, who was not part of the survey, said the results mirror his own practice, which is near Georgetown University. “I am seeing a lot of freshmen and sophomores in college, seeking therapy for anxiety and depression.”
The anxiety linked with going to college for the first time has been compounded by the pandemic shutdowns, which made the students’ first college years far from normal, he said.
While social media can cause harm, Wheeler said it can also help. Comments on social media such as “You need therapy” may actually help bring in some clients, he said.
Greg Wright, a spokesperson for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), reviewed the survey findings and agreed that clinical social workers, like other mental health providers, are seeing an increased demand.
Like other mental health organizations, the association is calling for more access to care. The group, for instance, is pushing for passage of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2023.
“NASW also supported more telehealth services during the pandemic and is pushing for more license portability for social workers so they can practice more easily in multiple states, serving clients in states where there are shortages,” Wright said.