Hundreds of Thousands of Mental Health Workers In US Earning Tens of Billions


1 Boring Old Man links to a recent US Congressional Research Service report, “The Mental Health Workforce: A Primer.” It reviews various sources of information on how many different types of mental health workers there are and how much money they earn.

The report identifies hundreds of thousands of mental health clinicians including psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and advanced practice psychiatric nurses collectively earning tens of billions of dollars annually. The report concedes that the numbers could be larger because, “No consensus exists on which provider types make up the mental health workforce.”

added for completeness… (1 Boring Old Man, June 22, 2015)

The Mental Health Workforce: A Primer (Congressional Research Service, April 16, 2015)


  1. I’m trying to figure out what this article actually tells us.

    One thing might be that the emphasis on pathologizing every aspect of living has led to an inflated mental health system that costs tax payers a lot of money.

    Perhaps it allows us to speculate exactly who is taking home all of this money within the system. But I can tell you once thing, it sure as hell aint me or my friends.

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  2. The worst thing about it seems to be that for all the money spent and all the people “treated” there are very few people actually recovering or improving over their lifespan. Main stream mental health seems very content to capture a cradle to grave illness program and the answers for why this is become clear when you see the staggering amount of money to be made.

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    • Not this peer worker!

      One of the big problems with peer workers is that they’re often put in place now in traditional organizations in order to be able to bill Medicare. If they chart then Medicare can be billed for every 15 minute increment of time that the peer spends with a “patient”. But, as we all know, this is not true peer work at all. You can’t measure walking with another and learning from them, in 15 minute increments. But, the peer workers are not seeing a lot of the money that Medicare is billed for. Go figure. Peer workers are being used as another scam to make money but seldom make fine salaries.

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  3. This article, and the comments all bring out crucial issues. The financial rewards to the mental health industry is driving the extremely poor and often dangerous standards of care to people in emotional distress. It is more lucrative for a psychiatrist, or any doctor to just pull out prescription pad rather than listening to the person. The article referred to in the New York Times is chilling, as it brings out how much psychiatrists convince themselves that they are being helpful while treating people with profound disrespect. I am a psychiatrist, who does mostly therapy, but does prescribe medication (cautiously), mostly to people in therapy. From my experience, I can state that the degree to which people will tell you about their real feelings and problems varies greatly with the time that they are given, and the empathy the treating person shows. If a doctor only shows interest in symptoms and doesn’t have nay time or empathy for the individual, then that doctor will know nothing, either of how the person feels or how the person is doing. This can lead to a doctor being convinced good is being done, when a patient is actually doing very poorly. The acceptance of poor results has become the norm, with many people seeing “mental illness” as a chronic “disease”, and not understanding that it is actually the widespread use of inadequate, and possibly dangerous, treatment modalities that is causing the problem. We do need good resources to help people, but billions are being wasted, people are not being properly helped, and tens of thousands are being turned into chronic patients by the system.

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  4. I think it’s the fact that a mega-billion dollar industry has been created by totally exploiting a vulnerable and trusting population, who are asking for and expecting focused and competent, trustworthy support. Instead, behind the curtain, it goes like this: “Easy targets, here, no one will believe ‘them’ when they grieve, that’s part of ‘their illness!’ ‘They complain about everything, and then try to become so manipulative.” From what I saw, that’s the stigma employed, the smoke and mirrors that gets cast over the perception of others, to create doubt and confusion.

    Let’s not forget all those advocacy programs that are bilking public and private funding sources (especially public, I think) for programs that perhaps look good on paper, and which sound so humanitarian and conscientious to the needs of the public. All these ‘recovery’ programs that are keeping people stuck in that mental health industry hamster wheel we call ‘indoctrination.’ The power imbalance wheel continues to roll.

    I know that in CA the Prop 63 Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) is going to nonsense programs that basically amount to just this, more of the same. I’ve been long gone from being inside the system so I’m no longer too up on what is going on at present, but I remember a few years ago when the regulating state mental health agency in CA busted up (I think 2010?), and suddenly, there was no oversight to this money. Guess what happened? Indeed, the vampires came out. That, I do know. I was in a nest of them, until I got the hell outta there.

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  5. Alex, you are so right. I have come to believe that the quality of care that is actually received is inversely proportional to the number of “programs” a governing body announces. These programs are usually just marketing to make it look like something is being done, while not providing solutions to the problems that cause people distress. The labelling of people as mentally ill and then focusing on reducing stigma for mental illness falls into this category of wasting money. The industry gorges on the vulnerable, wastes money to protect themselves from liability and to placate the masses, but overall creates more chronic problems with questionable help to people in need.

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    • Norman, I’m so glad you see this, too, with such clarity. I have an involved story with one of these agencies and “anti-stigma” programs, which really does tell this same tale you describe.

      It is the biggest illusion I’ve seen–where ALL this money is going to aggrandizing this ’empire,’ I see it growing in tiers, like a wheel expanding outward, catching people as if in a net, more like blatantly PERPETUATING the stigma, and further creating a society based on that dualistic ‘reality,’ so self-defeating for those looking for their freedom and integration. I wasn’t satisfied with being part of their ‘machine,’ but it was either their way or the highway, that was very clear. It’s like a black hole, really.

      Resolving this would create big changes, I think, like a domino effect–however on earth that task would take shape–starting with economics and also I think a lot would come to light that might set things right, once and for all. I really didn’t have that much trouble figuring this out when I was in the midst of it, but doing something about it proved to be extremely risky and consequential, repeatedly. I challenged this every way I could and wow, their reaction to me was over the top, which is why eventually I ran like a bat out of hell from the system.

      It was IMPOSSIBLE to penetrate this wall of corruption, at least by myself I couldn’t do it. Although I did go as far as winning a legal mediation, proving discrimination outright, and retaliation. Still, this is way stubborn. I couldn’t believe what I learned in this arena of ‘advocacy.’ I wish there were something productive to do here at this juncture, but I’m clueless at this point; as much as I’ve tested its boundaries and limits over the years, it is quite a closed and extremely narrow system. So then, what?

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      • Alex, you are not alone in this battle. There are many people who now buy into the marketing by the “empire” who really want to do good, but have just come to believe in the wrong information. Your efforts, and organizations like MIA are going to make a difference in the long run. The cost to the system, and to thousands of individuals is just too high the way things are now. Many professionals in the mental health field do believe in real science. We just need to continue to show that the way certain research has been promoted and marketed does not represent the whole reality. Real people are not research subjects and all research has to be interpreted in the light of people’s real experiences. I don’t treat “subjects”. I treat real people with real life problems, and rarely see anyone who has a simple “panic disorder” or “Major Depression”. Therefore, even the best research, properly interpreted is only a rough guide. All mental health professionals need to understand this. Many are discouraged by the poor results achieved by simplistic measures based on research models. They will come to understand the truth behind the industry with time. We just need to keep getting out a better message.

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        • True, I certainly never shy away from giving my informed opinion and backing up all the way. I did feel alone while fighting my own personal battles in this because it was before I knew of any such movement and just winged it, one step at a time, into the unknown of healing away from all this into which I had once, myself, been indoctrinated; it was all I knew until I woke up and went in an entirely different direction to find my healing and peace of mind. I was fortunate to make it through and get on with things. Although I do see that many have awakened and will continue, and I’m always happy to offer whatever support I can, based on my own experience. It’s a new journey to take.

          I appreciate your words of hope.

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  6. “Hundreds of thousands of mental health workers in the U.S. earning tens of billions,” but the “mental health” industry is still claiming they’re under funded.

    By the way, thank you, Doc Norman, for being honest about the deplorable state of your industry today. “Profound disrespect” is right, absolutely staggeringly unbelievable disrespect. Can you imagine when my pdoc asked me about my activities – and I explained (for three years, mind you) that I was co-chairing a program with 250+ volunteers, was the charter rep for my son’s Boy Scout pack, was a planning commissioner for my village, an artist working on my portfolio, and was a stay at home mother for my two small children, etc. – he writes in his medical records “not believed by doctor,” “thought w/o content, work, and talent,” and literally stated to my face one day that my name (thus identity) was “irrelevant to reality.” Mind you this pdoc was a Jew, seven Jews I worked with six years later all sat me down and explained to me that I had an extremely religious name to the Jews because I am named after both the plains of the promised land and God.

    In the end, after some decent nurses in my PCPs office became disgusted by my PCP for overseeing this pdoc’s massive anticholinergic intoxication syndrome poisonings of me, and handed over my family’s medical records. I read them, thus finally understood this pdoc’s multitude of delusions and initially incomprehensibly staggering disrespect. I confronted him with his delusions, and the fact the medical evidence of the abuse of my small child had also been handed over (he’d been drugging me based solely upon lies and gossip from the people who’d raped my small child, according to all my medical records). The pdoc claimed my entire life, everyone I’d ever met, everywhere I’d ever lived was all a “credible fictional story” in his medical records. Thankfully, he’d weaned me down to only lithium at this point, so it was time to say good-bye. “Profound disrespect” is correct.

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    • Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry that you were treated with such disrespect, though unfortunately this is no at all uncommon. As someone born of Jewish faith, I would like to assure you that not all Jewish doctors would respond to someone the way you were, regardless of your name. Much of Jewish teachings and culture is based on learning and wisdom. it is sad, that many people who follow various religions end up believing in superficial doctrines rather than holding to the spirit if the religion. There is a parallel between this and the mental health industry where many professionals don’t follow fundamental humanistic principles, but end up believing in easy to follow, highly marketed modalities. Most religions start with variations of the Golden Rule “do unto others…”. The medical Golden Rule is “do no harm” taken from the Hippocratic oath, “and I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage”‘ Clearly the medical profession is often not following this basic rule.

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