Empowering Nurses to Lead the Future of Mental Health

A diverse group of five smiling healthcare professionals, including psychotherapists from Ontario, standing confidently alongside a promotional message about empowering nurses in mental health.

Mental health experts and advocates have been sounding the alarm on the staggering number of Canadians who report a need for trauma recovery care and yet are not able to access effective treatments that support a quick recovery. But perhaps even more concerning is the amount of time it takes from the onset of traumatic responses to individuals beginning their trauma recovery journeys. Research warns that the average delay between a traumatic encounter, the onset of trauma-response symptoms, and accessing relevant treatment is about 11 years.

Research also suggests that a number of factors contribute to this statistic. For instance, many people are exposed to traumatic events in early childhood or adolescence. As such, they begin experiencing symptoms of trauma-related responses and don’t even know they need professional help. Their trauma responses become normalized in what psychotherapists call sub- and partial-personalities. Even those who recognize the need for help don’t know how or where they can access care unless someone helps them seek help.

This prolonged gap exacerbates the suffering of trauma victims and underscores a crucial need for innovative solutions. Could empowering registered nurse (RN) psychotherapists extend their healing touch beyond hospital confines and reach those whose mental health problems have gone untreated for far too long?

Barriers to Professional Help

As we navigate our complex mental healthcare system, a stark reality emerges. There is a “huge gap” in accessing the critical services needed for those facing mental health challenges. Margaret Eaton, the CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), paints a clear picture. She recently noted that, regardless of one’s location, there’s a huge gap in access to psychotherapy and other mental health services.

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) underscores the severity of the situation. It reveals that most Canadians face prolonged wait periods to access psychotherapy within their communities. Between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, approximately half of those seeking psychotherapy endured an average wait period of 22 days for their initial mental health appointment.

This waiting period, even under normal circumstances, takes on added gravity when individuals find themselves in the throes of a trauma response like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. Surprisingly, about 10 percent of individuals waited close to four months before receiving the professional support they needed.

While data from certain provinces was limited, Eaton asserts that issues related to access to mental health care are common across the nation. It’s even impossible to get the kind of mental healthcare services and support that you need on time. She added that most people say that one of the reasons they were unable to get mental healthcare services is that they couldn’t find a specialist.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the mental healthcare access crisis. Statistics Canada reported in May 2020 that 38 percent of respondents acknowledged a “deterioration” in their mental health. Strikingly, those who were already grappling with mental health difficulties before the pandemic were more than two times as likely to witness a decline in their health due to the pandemic.

However, the individuals experiencing mental health difficulties during COVID-19 were more than four times as likely to experience suicidal thoughts and attempt self-harm. This increasing distress underscores the pressing need for transformative solutions in trauma recovery and the entire mental healthcare system.

Luckily, RN psychotherapists are now here to play a pivotal role in closing the gap and providing timely, accessible mental health support to those who need it most.

Taking Psychotherapy to those who need it most

nurse practitioners

Trauma is the major precursor of mental health issues and most people hide their trauma for a long time. It’s often a relief for them when they finally find care. However, the delay between the onset of a patient’s mental health difficulties and engagement with a skilled and effective psychotherapist may worsen the prognosis. There’s also a high likelihood that the patient’s symptoms will persist and resist treatment. No doubt, swift access to psychotherapy is essential especially in the initial weeks to months after trauma exposure.

Traditionally registered nurses have been confined to hospital settings and community/public health agencies. Avid champions of patient well-being and holistic care, these same nurses are taking a bold step forward. Recognizing the need to bridge the gap between mental health services access they are pursuing additional training in psychotherapy and expanding their skill set beyond traditional nursing roles to support and serve those who need them most.

They are transforming themselves into trauma recovery specialists and transforming the Canadian mental health landscape. As RN Psychotherapists, these nurses can finally step out of the confines of hospital settings and begin to provide essential professional support that has been elusive for far too many Canadians as they embark on their trauma recovery journey.  

Vulnerable Populations that Need Psychotherapy

psychotherapy practice

Independent RN psychotherapist practices have a better chance of ensuring that vulnerable populations can access the best psychotherapy on time. They can also support clients with accessing community resources that in turn foster mental wellbeing.

Think of the black community, for instance. Black Canadians respond to trauma at a rate equal to anyone else. However, the CDC has declared racism (to which most black people are victims) as a severe threat to public health. It has placed communities of colour at a higher risk for mental health challenges and problems.

According to a 2023 Canadian Mental Health Association report, the Black community accounts for 3.5% of the total population. However, they experience disproportionate rates of racism and other similar stressors. As a result, they often develop psychological stress and other symptoms of mental health difficulties. Research shows that the rate of depression is six times higher in the Black community than in the general population.

Unfortunately, a shortage of Black psychotherapists has partly made it challenging for Black individuals to access the trauma care and support they need. Recognizing this void, Black nurses have an opportunity to enhance their skills as psychotherapists and trauma recovery specialists to become leaders in addressing this service gap within the Black community. Their decision to undergo additional training is not just personal and professional growth; it is a commitment to providing culturally-informed and professional support to a community that has long been underserved in the realm of mental health.

Homeless people also need access to mental health care. Currently, estimates by the Homeless Hub, a research organization run by York University, peg the number of people experiencing homelessness in Canada somewhere between 150,000 to 300,000. A recent study revealed that 30% to 40% of individuals experiencing homelessness have some form of mental health illness. Also, people who have been homeless at some point in their lives are 2-3 times more likely to report having poor mental health. Generally, people with severe mental health difficulties are over-represented among those battling homelessness.

The prevalence of mental health issues among the homeless population underscores the urgent need for tailored and accessible care. The transformative journey of nurses into psychotherapy is a direct response to this need. Indeed, nurse psychotherapists have become catalysts for change within a system that has historically struggled to reach homeless people.

As RN psychotherapists embrace their evolving role, they bring with them not only clinical expertise but also a deep understanding of the social factors that contribute to mental health disparities. Their approach is holistic and understands how effective mental health care – for individuals experiencing homelessness, suffering from chronic illnesses, and marginalized communities – extends beyond traditional clinical settings. This is a good service to humanity and an opportunity to ensure the Canadian public has access to quality mental healthcare.

The Need for Proper Training – The Becoming Institute Program

professional counselling skills

Brock Chisholm, a mental health expert and the first director-general of the WHO, once said, “Without proper mental health, there can’t be true physical health.” Mental health nurses, particularly psychotherapists, play a key role in bridging the gap between mental and physical health to promote effective trauma recovery and whole health.

The pivotal role of nurses, including psychiatric nurses, extends far beyond the traditional confines of hospital facilities. As champions of physical health, their evolution into psychotherapy marks a transformative shift towards addressing the critical mental health needs of our communities. By acquiring specialized training and licensing in psychotherapy, they empower themselves to venture beyond hospital settings, becoming crucial advocates for mental well-being in the broader community.

This transition is a profound commitment to extending trauma recovery and healing where it’s needed most. RN psychotherapists are armed with clinical expertise and a deep understanding of cognitive, behavioural, and spiritual responses to trauma. They foster an environment where adverse childhood events (ACEs) are thoroughly assessed and efficiently treated. Additionally, traumatic responses are viewed as coping patterns that can be quickly treated, allowing for new and energizing life experiences. 

These dedicated professionals ensure that mental health challenges are not misinterpreted, isolated, or met with punitive measures. They ensure mental health issues are approached with a nuanced understanding that paves the way for genuine healing. In making the huge decision to step out of the hospital corridors, psychotherapists become instrumental in reshaping the narrative around mental healthcare. They offer accessible and compassionate support, bridging the gap for those who have long been underserved or overlooked.

This transformative journey aligns with the core ethos of nursing – a commitment to holistic patient care that recognizes the interconnectedness of mental and physical health, ensuring that no one is left behind in their pursuit of well-being.

As nurses take on the mantle of psychotherapists, they become vital pillars of support for individuals who may have hesitated to seek help due to the lack of relatable mental health professionals. Through their endeavours, they are breaking down barriers and offering a path toward healing that is rooted in cultural understanding and empathy.

Luckily, the Becoming Institute Program equips nurses to become trauma recovery specialists, empowers them to address trauma holistically, and opens doors to a successful RN psychotherapy practice.

Why Becoming Method™

1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness and we're here to change that

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Why Becoming Method™

1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness and we're here to change that

10,000 Hours

We are providing complimentary access to 10,000 hours of trauma recovery care.

10,000 Hours

We are providing complimentary access to 10,000 hours of trauma recovery care.


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