In January we launched our #PostThePay campaign. Every California job applicant has a legal right to know the pay of the position they’re applying for. When employers post pay information in job announcements, they save themselves time and promote fair wages in the mental health field. But how can you help ensure fair wages if you’re already employed? What if you know the pay of a position, but aren’t quite satisfied about it? Here are some ways you can advocate for better pay in therapy and counseling jobs.
Therapists often fear manualized treatments in psychotherapy. If the therapy process is boiled down to a script, the fear goes, the actual therapist becomes interchangeable with anyone else following the same script. Taken to its logical end, if therapy is just a set of manualized techniques, we could easily be replaced by robots.
My first six months of seeing clients while in graduate school felt pretty crazy, though at the time I didn’t realize how crazy. When we are on a significant growth trajectory and learning curve, it’s challenging to see through the fog of all the factors involved in adjusting to becoming a therapist. It seems whenever we are in an important and difficult phase of life — potentially transformational — it’s hard to see what growth is actually occurring.
Looking back on those first six months of clinical work has taught me some valuable lessons. When I was seeing my first clients, I wish I had known how to intentionally let go of the pressure I felt to make something happen or employ technique.
Tyra and I both hear a lot of horror stories. It goes with the territory. Therapy is hard work, and community mental health work is especially challenging. Clients may have severe mental health problems, other major health concerns, substance use struggles, inconsistent employment or housing, and a wide variety of other social and environmental problems — all overlapping. The therapists doing their best to help clients in these settings are themselves often overworked and underpaid. Many are in the early stages of their careers, making it more difficult to know what’s normal in that kind of work setting. How can you tell when a work environment in community mental health is need of fixing? How can you tell when it’s better to just leave?
It’s fairly common knowledge that the gender balance of a profession and the pay in that profession are correlated. Jobs populated primarily by women pay less, on average, than those populated primarily by men. But it’s rare to get a clear sense of why that’s the case. The therapy world offers a rare exception. It used to be that most therapists were men. Today, the overwhelming majority are women — and pay is meaningfully lower. But we actually know which change came first.