Last week I was working on another Spring Health blog post about fostering healthy workplace culture and environment, and I ended up having Thoughts unrelated to this month’s specific topic. Naturally, I shared these thoughts on social media – to paraphrase Descartes, I tweet, therefore I am.
Therapists get told that we shouldn’t be “in this for the money,” but we have bills just like everyone else. We can want to help people and be passionate about our work, AND want to be comfortable, take vacations, etc. But supervisors, CEOs, organization presidents, like to ridicule us for advocating for higher wages. I’ve said before, I did not invent capitalism, I just live here.
(I’m also in favor of many other fields getting raises – I speak to mental health because that is my own experience. I will probably write more about this later.)
Jennifer Petersen, M.S., shared with me some thoughts she posted to LinkedIn inspired by my comments. She was kind enough to let me share them in the blog also. You can learn more about Jennifer’s work on her website.
I couldn’t agree with Amy Marschall, Psy.D. more. It may be a “bold” take to some, but here are some things I have been told by employers and supervisors when I talk about pay inequality:
-“You don’t know if the grass will be greener somewhere else. It could be worse.”
-“If you are in it for the pay then you shouldn’t have gotten into this field.”
-“I didn’t get paid that much as a clinical trainee either, you should just be happy with what you make.”
-“Pay inequality doesn’t get me activated because I focus on my why.”
-“I have to focus on my kids and spouse, I don’t have time to advocate for this.”
-“My spouse takes care of most financial things.”
I get it, most of these people are married, with kids, and have put up with the system for many years. So why change?
Do you know how embarrassing it is as a therapist to live pay check to pay check? To go out for coffee for case consult and worry your card might get declined in front of all your colleagues? To go to the grocery store to checkout and worry your card will decline? To have to cancel a needed hair appointment, one thing that makes me feel good about myself, because I have no money? To have to worry about which bill can wait to be paid so I can have more than $20 to my name?
All of these things I have experienced as a therapist. As someone who came from poverty, an abusive alcoholic family, first generation high-school graduate even, to continue to be in poverty…
I once told a therapist working in private practice my take home bi-weekly and she laughed and said, “You mean you make double that, right?” No, I don’t. In the three years I’ve been doing this, I haven’t even been close to making $50k a year. I get comments from clients and my family, “OH Jenny I bet you make the big bucks.” Talk about imposter syndrome at its highest.
On top of all of this, I am the only practicing certified sex therapist in all of southern MN and do you think I have ever gotten paid extra for that? Nope.
I made a post a while ago stating I know several therapists who are on section 8 housing and county assistance. There is nothing wrong with getting that help. It is the fact that someone with a masters degree and probably 80K+ student loans shouldn’t have to live like this.
Every single one of these statements from supervisors and employers is gaslighting. We are in a profession of advocacy. It is literally I the ACA code of ethics. If you are a supervisor and you say you “don’t have time” to advocate for your clinical trainees, then you should not be a supervisor. You are not following ethics. You are not speaking up for the ones that can’t. The ones you worked so hard to get the extra credentials to “help.” You are part of the systemic problem.
Stop asking why clinicians are leaving the field, why there is such a high turnover rate, and why you can’t hire anyone. It is you, you’re the problem. How are YOU going to help be the change?