Newly opened businesses in the area around Capitol Hill and the Central District might give an indication of one of the growing needs of a booming population.
Mental health care providers have brought their practices to the area to meet the exceeding demand for centrally located counseling services. In 2017, CHS noticed that the City of Seattle recorded counseling offices to be the second highest number of new businesses in District 3.
“I was busy immediately and had as many referrals I could take from the get go,” said psychotherapist Lisa Hake, LMHC GMHS, who moved her practice from Bellevue to Madrona last year.
To be a licensed mental health care practitioner, providers must have a minimum education of masters degree and meet Washington’s licensing requirements. Reported lowered barriers to access and decreased stigmatization has led to overall industry growth, while the rise in business locally is attributed by many we spoke with to a widespread increase of anxiety, spurred by our current socioeconomic and political landscape. “You can’t say to people that this is a safe place anymore, the world. It really wasn’t before, but it’s obvious now that it’s no longer true,” said Jason Franklin, LMHC in Madison Valley. Franklin primarily works with intersectionality.
According to Hake, the only other time she saw a shift in demand this dramatic is “going back further to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act that expanded access to insurance exponentially and allowed more people to seek counseling because they now had a way to pay for it.” Changes through legislation have opened opportunities for young adults to attend or continue counseling support. Under the Affordable Care Act, the adult children of insured parents can remain covered until age 26.
The emergent anxiety is especially true for groups most susceptible to social and political tides. Hake says that politics play a big role in the experience for these populations and that more than any one event, the strategic use of power to eschew rights is an ongoing manifestation of the stress. It appears the distress caused by current events, including school violence, and racially motivated crime is reshaping the way people perceive therapy.
“Anxiety has increased so much that it is becoming more common for people who see themselves as well adjusted and high functioning to seek therapy,” said Franklin. According to many practitioners, people in their 20’s are embracing therapy to maintain good mental health, avoid critical levels of anxiety and process their experience with guidance, whereas “seniors may see going to therapy as something that must be wrong with you, rather than something that happened to you,” said Jessica Anthony, a LMHC Associate in Capitol Hill.
Individuals in the LGBTQ+, Women, and Black communities are facing persistent or resurgent threats to equity and/or violence, according to LMHC Lavonne Bryan of Fortitude Therapy and Wellness. “There has been a lot more fear in being transgender and being themselves in the world.”
The group of practitioners surveyed by CHS were in overwhelming consensus that the state of social justice and politics here and around the world not only has the power to disrupt mental health but that is pervasive across generations, class, education levels, gender and race.
Katie Stickney an LMHC in Capitol Hill often works with trauma survivors. “Since the election of our president, people are seeking support for trauma – being triggered by the language used and processing things they’re seeing in the news like Black Lives Matter and Me Too,” she said. The notion was echoed by Franklin who has observed that “if there is someone perceived as a predator and is normalized by a position of power, women and men who have experienced sexual abuse can be triggered and have an experience of being retraumatized.”
It’s not only historically embattled or subtly subjugated people who are contributing to the rise of therapeutic centers in District 3. The pressures associated with social media and technology has increasingly been a topic for tech workers and teenagers who seek counseling support for the first time.
While Bryan, recognizes “there has been a stigma in communities of color that has been there a long time as a result of the system of oppression which has resulted in trust issues,” she has seen the stigma subside. She says exposure to social media provides a lot of information and highlights the ubiquity of seeing a counselor. On the other hand, Franklin has observed the negative effects of social media. “Anxiety and the manifestations of it is not just internal worry but it affects your body and relationships. Some people think it has to do with screens and social media. Individuals may feel like they’re getting their needs met in the moment, but it makes it harder to get out of the house,” he said.
Bryan isn’t sure how long the benefit of moving her office to District 3 will last. For now, her centrally located office which serves a diverse community but she says the area is becoming gentrified and perhaps sooner or later she will need to continue moving where her clients go. Naturally as the population grows, so does the marketplace, however, the influx of mental health care is a significant but possibly not enough. According to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, as of 2011 Washington State was number two in the country for the highest prevalence of adults suffering from mental illness.
But Franklin says “It doesn’t have to be about needing it. We all deserve therapy.”
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