Prolonged Wait Times for Psychotherapy Exacerbates Mental Health Struggles

Every World Mental Health Day is met with announcements of commitment to quality mental healthcare by provincial and federal governments. Undoubtedly, most Canadians appreciate these promises, for a category of health issue affecting one in five Canadians aged 12 or older. However, an alarm bell still needs to be rung about the long wait times for psychotherapy and other mental health services nationwide.

It takes at least 4 months and sometimes over a year to see a mental health professional. A recent Children’s Mental Health Ontario report showed that children and youth (18 years or younger) could wait up to two and half years for psychotherapy. These delays result from a major shortage of mental experts in Canada’s healthcare system. For instance, there are approximately 15 psychiatrists per 100,000 residents in Ontario.

Besides, a complex and confusing referral process may cause further delays. Patients often need to consult a doctor before being referred to a psychiatrist who may have a long wait list of other patients. This prolongs the already tedious process of seeking psychotherapy. This delay is detrimental as symptoms may worsen, impacting patients who may lack the time and resources to navigate the system efficiently.

Prolonged wait times for psychotherapy can have detrimental effects. These include increased symptom severity, self-medication, and program dropout.

Increased Symptom Severity

prolonged wait times for psychotherapy

Prolonged wait times for psychotherapy or mental health support are associated with negative psychological responses such as stress, depression, and anxiety. More certain, longer and unexpected waits can lead to aggravation of the patient’s trauma responses. As patients endure extended periods without professional intervention, they may feel frustrated, angry, depressed, and sometimes have low self-esteem.

By the time these patients finally secure a session with a mental health expert, their symptoms may have escalated significantly. This delay in access to care not only prolongs suffering but also underscores the critical need for readily available psychotherapists to address the evolving needs of those seeking trauma recovery help.


mental health treatment

When you experience a traumatic event, it alters your brain chemistry. You rarely experience the world the same you once did, whether you are conscious of this shift or not. Without timely professional support and treatment, most trauma victims turn to alcohol, sex, and drugs like marijuana to take the edge off, disconnect from what they are feeling, or keep intrusive memories away. It could take such individuals many years to seek professional help.

Eventually, this self-medication does more harm than good. If you turn to drugs like marijuana when you are dealing with trauma, you may initially feel less stressed. However, such substances can cause drug-induced psychosis and other side effects of substance abuse. Besides, self-medicating with sex or drugs won’t get to the root of your trauma. Specialized psychotherapy for trauma can help address the root cause of your trauma.

“Drop Out” of Mental Health Help Programs

private practice

A significant number of patients who need mental health help withdraw from treatment programs before completion due to long waits for the initial session and extended periods between the sessions. This premature withdrawal is detrimental, as it reflects a systemic failure to provide timely mental health support.

Trauma recovery requires consistent, timely intervention, and interruptions due to extended waits disrupt the therapeutic continuity. As patients disengage from treatment programs, the potential for addressing and overcoming trauma diminishes, emphasizing the critical need for streamlined access to mental health support to facilitate effective trauma recovery.

RN Psychotherapists can Bridge this Gap

mental health professionals

Registered Nurse (RN) psychotherapists have the potential to significantly reduce wait times for psychotherapy by expanding their roles beyond hospital settings. With proper training, they can extend their services to reach vulnerable populations who often face barriers to accessing mental health care. By establishing and running their practices successfully, RN psychotherapists can bring psychotherapy directly to those who need it most.

The flexibility of RN psychotherapists allows them to tailor the structure of each therapy session and the environment itself to meet the unique needs of individual clients. This personalized approach creates a therapeutic space conducive to healing, enhancing the effectiveness of the trauma recovery process.

Read more (add link)about how empowered nurses are shaping the future of mental health services.

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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