Privacy may also be a concern. The fear of being seen
sitting in a psychologist’s waiting room may be enough to keep
some psychologists from seeking help. Though psychologists
know about the ethical standards and laws that protect health
information, they may have seen other psychologists take
these standards lightly, and perhaps wonder how fiercely
their personal psychotherapist will honor privilege and
confidentiality standards. Violations of privacy for professional
psychologists may have dire implications. If a psychologist is
perceived to have impaired objectivity, for example, it may
become an issue if a future board or malpractice action occurs.
Selecting a personal psychotherapist may also be
challenging. When choosing a therapist, all clients consider
location, availability, qualifications, language
barriers and theoretical orientation. Psychologists
seeking care must also think through the possibility
of dual relationships since local therapists could
be colleagues, peers, mentors, mentees, supervisors
or teachers (Deutsch, 1985). Another complicating
factor might be competition among practitioners,
which could interfere with the psychologist’s ability
to establish a safe and trusting relationship with his
or her psychotherapist.
Lack of time and money may also keep
psychologists from seeking mental health care. A
psychology career requires working around client
schedules, sometimes traveling between practice
sites, staying current on scientific literature, pursuing
continuing education and carrying heavy client loads.
In addition, most early career psychologists are paying
off educational loans. In light of these demands, committing the
time and financial resources to psychotherapy can be burdensome.
Private practitioners may also have health insurance policies that
limit or even exclude mental health benefits.
Psychologists’ experience with psychotherapy
Perhaps the greatest challenge to discussing obstacles to
treatment is that limited systematic research has addressed
this issue, and much of the existing research has investigated
graduate students rather than practicing psychologists (e.g.,
Dearing, Maddux, & Tangney, 2005).
To help fill this knowledge gap, we surveyed psychologists
to identify the prominent barriers to treatment. We chose 500
randomly selected APA members, including only those who
indicated clinical psychology as both their major field and their
area of interest on their APA Directory profiles. Participants
were contacted with a letter explaining the study, a copy of the
survey questionnaire and an addressed, stamped envelope. A $2
incentive was also included.
We had a response rate of 52 percent, including 134 women
( 52 percent) and 122 men ( 48 percent). Seventy percent of
participants indicated that they are independent practitioners,
with the remaining 30 percent fairly evenly divided among
community mental health, medical settings, academic settings,
government/industry, other or a combination of two or more of
Respondents reported a mean number of years in practice
of 23. 7. They reported a mean of 74 appointments per month,
with a range from 0 to 250.
Seeking personal psychotherapy
Of the respondents, 86 percent indicated they had
participated in psychotherapy at some point in their lives, with
a mean of 12. 7 years having passed since their last session.
Respondents reported taking part in an average of 221.7
sessions and 2. 7 courses of psychotherapy. Most reporting past
participation in psychotherapy viewed it positively.
When asked if there was a time when they may have
benefited from psychotherapy but did not seek it, 59 percent of
respondents answered affirmatively. This suggests that although
clinical psychologists are open to seeking psychotherapy and
usually find it beneficial when they do, there are factors that
deter them from doing so.
Deterrents to seeking psychotherapy
Respondents were also asked to rate the degree to which six
specific factors have functioned as deterrents in their decision
regarding personal psychotherapy. The items having the most
impact were, in descending order:
• Difficulty selecting an acceptable therapist.
• Lack of time.
• Lack of financial resources.
• Difficulty admitting distress.
• Professional stigma (might affect professional reputation).
• Personal stigma (my self-view or others’ view of me).
Respondents were asked to identify their therapeutic
orientation and to indicate the orientation they would prefer
Of more than 230 occupations
analyzed by epidemiologists
at the National Institute of
Occupational Safety and Health,
male psychologists were the
most likely to commit suicide.