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The World’s Rapidly Growing Need for Mental Health Professionals

The World’s Rapidly Growing Need for Mental Health Professionals

The demand for mental health workers is rapidly increasing all over the world. The types of assistance many people need start at the survival level. As defined by the first two   (which organizes needs into levels of importance with physiological needs on the bottom and self-actualization needs on the top), these are physiological needs and safety needs. Mental health workers can use their skills to help guide clients in meeting these as a foundation for further treatment. The advocacy organization United for Global Mental Health speaks about rapidly increasing awareness of mental health’s importance on a global basis, but with a local focus. Each nation, and each community, is facing both universal challenges and local crises, and today’s psychology students will be graduating into this complex treatment environment.

Learning to Help Others, with an Important Omission

Due to demands of complex treatment environment, psychology students undergo an intense education. But one thing their curriculum overlooks is self-care. In a note to faculty, the American Psychological Association (APA) addressed students’ strong tendency not to turn their focus on themselves. Psychology students, they note, have heavy loads of responsibilities, both academic and personal. Their mentors, both academic and in clinical placements, don’t often teach self-care as part of their training.

Empirical Study of the Psychology Student Self-Care Problem

Studies have been performed to analyze the levels of self-care psychology students display. A meta-analysis conducted at Idaho State University in the USA found that self-care behaviors among psychology graduate students were linked with increases in self-compassion and life satisfaction, and a decrease in psychological distress. At the US Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, higher levels of self-care were connected with improved self-reported progress in doctorate-level psychology graduate programs.

The Labyrinth of Specialization and Certification European Psychology Students Face

In Europe, students in psychology face complex systems of education and qualifications with diverse language and cultural challenges. The EuroPsy certificate system provides basic standards to meet, while each country has its own standards for licensing, and certificates such as the EFPA’s psychotherapy and organizational psychology specializations have varying training requirements and limit access to a subset of the European psychology student community. In other words, psychology students find themselves facing the decisions of training and specialization, within a complex framework of qualifications that make planning a specialized career a particular challenge.

Practical Tips for Psychology Students

Here are some tips for preparing for the modern world of psychology practice, followed by an outline that will serve psychology students well in organizing their self-awareness and self-care.

Prepare for Trauma Informed Care

Trauma is a fact of life for many clients, but infusing recognition of patients’ specific needs when they have a history of trauma is only recently becoming part of the standards of practice. Trauma-informed care, often combined with  ,(in which the caregiver and patient work together towards and outcome that draws on the patient’s strengths and assets) can be important tools to look for, even if your coursework only touched on them along the way.

Telehealth Can Be a Positive Opportunity to Use Technology, But Social Media Has Its Risks

Using technology in the clinical setting and creating appropriate boundaries in the diverse world of social media are both important skills for mental health workers who are rendering services in today’s world. Telehealth offers enhanced access to services for people who need to stay at home for reasons from lack of transportation to a global pandemic. It also cuts down travel for providers so they can help more people and have the flexibility to work from home when needed. But keeping grounded in personal reality during telehealth sessions in a virtual world needs special awareness and visual cues such as hand gestures or a relaxing background image.

Shadow Professionals to Understand the Applications of What You’re Learning

Learning from experience, especially without the pressures of academic evaluations, can ground you in the realities of the material you’re studying. Shadowing professionals in medical fields to learn about the nature of providing healthcare services, especially in diverse cultures, can help you identify your own style of communicating and get expert advice from someone in the field. Shadowing is also an excellent opportunity to challenge your preconceptions about your future patients, cultures, and difficult clinical situations.

Define and Employ Boundaries in Your Diverse Educational Roles

Create your own daily structure including time management, meals, and self-care. Be proactive instead of reactive in your time commitments, scheduling work rather than taking on others’ burdens under pressure. Also, don’t use the pressures of one role to keep the demands of another role in check as your educational path proceeds, such as using a role as research assistant to reduce your commitment to a study group. Make each commitment on its own merits and your own needs. Remember, what you do now to define your process will benefit your future: it’s not just about survival right now.

Let Go of Dysfunctional Coping Skills, Even if they Helped Before

If you find it difficult to set limits in your various roles as a psychology student, you may find that you’re “burning the candle at both ends” and looking for substance-based support beginning with stimulants to get going and using chemical depressants to take a necessary break. This is especially true if these habits got you through the early years of your university education. For those who test their own limits, quality professional care for addiction and substance habits can help you recover and learn new ways to cope. An essential part of the downward spiral is loss of perspective, so objective, experienced care is needed.

Prepare Your Research Skills for Lifelong Learning

Even if you’re not going into research and teaching, as a psychology professional, you’ll need to understand the importance of research in your field from decade to decade. The skills you learn now will help you be efficient and effective in critically reading journal articles and other sources and including new information in your work.

Employing Diligent Self-Care, a Reiteration

Another APA note for US-based psychology students covers the basic elements of self-care in a clear and helpful way, similar to wise parental advice:

  • Learn to assess yourself
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes per day
  • Eat well, perhaps with extra time for a Sunday meal
  • Rest well, and learn about “sleep hygiene,” which emphasizes a set sleep schedule
  • Talk it out, relying on other students to get advice and support, and boost your motivation
  • Treat yourself with activities you love, and remember that disinterest can be a sign of developing depression

The World Needs More Healthy, Well-Balanced Mental Health Professionals

Your years of education are an opportunity to develop skills that will serve you well in life, whether you’re in private practice, a community clinic, supporting business and industry, or traveling to places where the need is greatest. Take good care of yourself, live in the moment with mindfulness, and your future will be all it can be.


Sources Mental Health in 2022: From Global to Local How to encourage student self care The efficacy of self-care for graduate students in professional psychology: A meta-analysis. Self-care in clinical psychology graduate training. Routes for Specialization in Psychology throughout Europe What is Trauma Informed Care? Therapists Make the Switch to Telepsychology to Safely Continue Treating Their Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Virtual Reality Telepsychology May Be Next Hospital Shadowing in Spain Time management for health professions students 30-Day Treatment Programs Skills of a Psychology Major Survival of the fittest A mindfulness course decreases burnout and improves well-being among healthcare providers


Psychedelics as a Scientific Tool for Mental Health

An Interview with Marvin Däumichen, MA, co-founder of the MIND Foundation

Psychedelic drugs might become the next big therapeutic tool to fight depression and other psychiatric disorders as “changes in self-experience, emotional processing and social cognition may contribute to the potential therapeutic effects” (Vollenweider & Preller, 2020). Classical psychedelics like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin (magic mushrooms) that are administered with appropriate guidance and in a controlled therapeutic setting that includes preparation and reflexion upon the experience were shown to enhance mental health (Walton & Liknaitzky, 2020). 

We talked to Marvin Däumichen who is a co-founder of the MIND Foundation about the history and potential of psychedelics as a treatment for mental health and why high-quality research and promoting knowledge is inevitable to boost this field. The MIND Foundation is a European non-profit science and education organization that aims to build a healthier, more connected world through psychedelic research and education. 

Marvin Däumichen: The foundation was started by a group of individuals from all different kinds of professions – researchers, therapists, medical professionals, students and friends. Different backgrounds and interests of the members represent the fragmented and diverse field of psychedelic cultures. My personal motivation to join the research field had been long standing, it was a theme throughout my life. and I started immersing myself in the socio-cultural history of psychedelics and slowly became more vocal about the relevance and implications of psychedelic experience in society, arts, politics and medical contexts.

Anna Köstler: You mentioned an obvious difference in the field of psychedelics between personal experiences among users on the one hand and a scientific, intersubjective approach on the other. Would you say it is a rather new research field?

Marvin Däumichen: Psychedelic traditions have been around for a long time, but psychedelic research only started in the late 19th century. Albert Hoffmann for instance discovered the psychoactive properties of LSD in 1943 and by the 1940ies and 50ies psychedelics had been embraced by parts of the psychiatric community and used for treatment of substance misuse. By the 1960s there had been a body of scientific literature published, confirming findings that these substances can be very useful for the treatment of many psychiatric disorders. 

Anna Köstler: Why do you think, in comparison to antidepressants like SSRIs, is there an ongoing stigma about psychedelics? 

Marvin Däumichen: The interaction of set, setting, and dose are critical for the overall effect of psychedelics. People can take the same substance but set different intentions and may have a dramatically different experience because the setting is not the same (on the interactions of  Drug, Set, and Setting, see Zinberg 1984). The experience with psychedelics can be risky, especially regarding specific genetic predispositions and uncontrolled use. Further, SSRIs are not fun, they do not have an experiential, phenomenological aspect to them and they are linear in action. That is why recreational use and misuse happened involving psychedelics while SSRIs are not abused much. Research on psychedelics was always happening, it just got derailed when people started using psychedelics as an act of political dissidence in the 1960s. When LSD got out of the lab and onto the streets, it got out of hand and overall, it became a political movement. 

Anna Köstler: Your foundation focuses on education on the potentials of psychedelics as a tool for mental health through scientific methods. What is important for you in terms of research, what must information about psychedelics imply to be in accordance with your philosophy? 

Marvin Däumichen: The values of the MIND Foundation are based in the philosophical tradition of enlightenment, reason and critical thinking. Within these foundations of mental autonomy and democracy, people should be able to educate themselves and think independently to make informed decisions grounded in evidence-based information that people can then incorporate as factual knowledge. No magical thinking or pseudo-shamanism is involved in what we are doing, we rather focus on studies that have shown long lasting positive effects on mental health with just very few interventions with psychedelic substances. We offer education to professional adults and students, work together with established researchers, collaborate with universities and institutes to conduct research and share information about treatment options for people that seek help.

Anna Köstler: How would a typical therapeutic setting with psychedelic treatment unfold? 

Marvin Däumichen: There is a lot of good research that took place in recent years and since the late 2000s, interest in psychedelics has resurfaced. These studies are in line with clinical standards and found out that a certain type of therapy seems particularly promising with psychedelic treatment. A therapeutic approach that has been used a lot in clinical studies is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which is part of the so-called third wave of cognitive-behavioral therapies. The patient will receive only a couple of dosing sessions and additional talking therapy interventions for preparation and integration.

Anna Köstler: The ultimate goal of your foundation would be to make people understand psychedelics as a normal and standard treatment for mental health, right? 

Marvin Däumichen: Absolutely! There should be no doubt about the potentials as it is striking how effective this treatment can be. The responses among patients are very positive. This is not for the sake of progress of our foundation or monetary interest but to alleviate suffering in the world. Mental health plays a big role, especially nowadays and we are constantly looking for better treatments and better methods as mental health makes no exception. 

Anna Köstler: How can one get involved in the MIND Foundation?

Marvin Däumichen: Our organization is growing rapidly. We are hosting public events on a regular basis, like get-to-know meetups that are entirely free. We do public talks, symposiums, workshops, experiential programs on the MIND Academy, and a large conference that happens every other year where hard science and implementation come together. People can volunteer, there is the opportunity to do an internship and we already have a lot of psychology and neuroscience students supporting us in various activities in educational and research projects. Moreover, we are cooperation partner in a large, psilocybin depression study, lead by Prof. Dr. Gerhard Gründer at the CIMH Mannheim and the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, starting in early 2021. The project is making history in Germany. Lastly, especially for students, we started the uniMIND project, which is a lively, international journal club network that will host a Symposium at the University of Zurich in June 2021. Many of their meetings are happening online these days, entirely free, fun, and educational.


Anna Köstler

Anna just finished her master's studies in psychology at the University of Vienna. For her thesis she studied neural correlates of empathy in the brain and is aiming to follow her interest in neuroscience, clinical psychology, sleep and science communication. Traveling, friends, making music and writing keep her busy during leisure time.

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