The Psychology Domino Affect


August Berrios

Dominos of mental health leading to the brain (Photography by: August Berrios).

The Need for Action 

The uptick in need for psychiatric help has left mental health professionals with feelings that negatively impact their mindset, body, and work. On the professional side, this topic has gained more relevance because of mass public health concerns and a big threat to the quality of care. Burnout can leave mental health professionals drained of all emotions and leads to developing thick skin, which is an unhealthy coping mechanism. Burnout also leads to greater limitations, which overall affects the work of these professionals. 

“Oftentimes it’s easy to lose track of ourselves. I think that’s when psychologists burn out — when they are not taking care of themselves,” said Dr. Dana Lyer a psychologist who has been working for 20 years. 

These professionals have problems that they can’t see, and the ramifications of burnout tend to become a more prominent factor in a psychologist’s mental health. 

AP Psychology teacher at Huntington Beach High School, Michael Groscost, says, “The work is very emotionally draining, when feeling empathy and compassion for the people sharing the trauma that they have, and it becomes very draining having to learn how to deal with it.” 

Having such a mentally tough job entails a learning curve that tends to become very overwhelming. The deeper one gets into psychology the more one has to learn about themselves. When looking at the grand scheme of things, mental health professionals should seek help with their well-being for reasons that vary from personal to professional problems, which can create more dominoes in this ever-persisting cycle of mental troubles. 

Factors Contributing to Declining Mental Health:

In our modern-day society, more people are struggling with mental health issues, which creates the need for mental health professionals. The CDC recorded that at the end of March 2022, more than 44.2% of high school students said that they have struggled with poor mental health. Also, with high schoolers who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, the rate of mental illness rises to 66.3%. With this study, the CDC discovered, a staggering 19.9% of people have admitted to seriously considering committing suicide, with 9% had previously attempted. This data reflects the rise of poor mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the overview of these stats pours into the world going back to “normal.”

“People have recognized even before the last couple of years the amount of stress that students are under,” said Mr. Groscost.

With a rise in student stress, there are more opportunities for negative emotions to hinder the lives of students. The CDC also recorded that there is a rise in teenagers reporting instances of parental abuse and racism. This puts into perspective the importance of mental health professionals. What can be seen is that the biggest reasons people are struggling with mental health are very negative, the rise in racism, parental abuse, and discrimination all contribute to this. But there is a positive rise when it comes to people reaching out for help.

“[This] increased awareness of mental health in the media, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Lyer. 

Emphasizing this puts in the notion that even over multiple years mental health has been on the decline. People are becoming more curious about the benefits that come with speaking to a professional. The incline in our generation that provides more safe spaces for people to be emotionally vulnerable helps forward the movement that asking for help is not a weakness. The importance of these professionals and their mental health should always have been in the picture.

How does going to therapy help mental health professionals in their work?

An article by Forbes revealed that in the training programs for therapists they are required to complete courses in psychotherapy so they can experience what it is like to be the client. This requirement provides therapists with these skills to understand their client’s emotions around therapeutic sessions. For example, it helps these professionals to understand why a client might be extremely nervous to go into their first session.

“When I worked with different people, [it helped me learn] how I [would] want [my treatment to go] and what felt good to me as the patient and what didn’t,” Dr. Lyer says. 

A portion of being a mental health professional is having to learn more about yourself. Forbes explained how therapists felt they became better at their job over time due to their ability to experience what it’s like as a client. This system also puts into scale how therapists should react to the information given to them during sessions and helps organize the feelings in their personal life to the feelings that are given by a mental health professional. With this, therapists can be more assured that the advice they give clients actually works and that they are not just telling clients things that they want to hear. 

“It is a very important aspect of maintaining your skill as a therapist,” says Dr. Frankie, a licensed psychologist.

The aspect of therapists going through therapy to help in their profession is a profound reason for mental health workers to seek help in their own field. But this makes the domino effect even larger with there being more reason for these professionals to seek therapy. An aspect brought up frequently during interviews with psychologists, was when therapists could meet with other therapists and they could talk about what seemed to be working and what doesn’t seem to be working in their field.

Psychologist Experiences:

Many psychologists already have preconceived notions about therapy. No matter if a psychologist knows a lot about certain aspects of therapy a big factor is having to open the floodgates to someone that is in the same profession. Even if somebody has been working in this field for years, a big focus of psychologists getting help is opening up to the problems that they are blind to. Even with more knowledge of the therapeutic cycle, therapy and is still vital for mental health professionals to see inner problems that they have yet to confront.  

The emotions of being in therapy (Photography by: August Berrios).

How Mental Health Professionals Cope:

The age-old joke that people who study psychology can just “look at their notes” is obviously very false. No matter how long anyone has studied a subject, getting help is never outrageous in any manner. In this profession, it just happens to be that these people work with others who are specifically there to talk about their trauma, but this exchange comes with therapists having to find outlets to maintain a healthy mindset. The ways of self-help that are popular for mental health professionals include: minimizing isolation, accepting feelings and not rejecting or hiding from them, and reducing self-blame when it comes to trauma. Moreover, it is still recommended for anybody to reach out for professional help and even if these mental health workers know some of the most recognized tips to help with trauma. Most can’t always rely on what they have learned and hopefully seek the help that is suitable for them. Although self-help will never be a one size fits all solution, being able to find personal outlets to recoup from what is a mentally draining job is very vital in stabilizing a psychologist’s mental health.

What is it like having to hold the secrets of so many people?

One of the first things a client is told by a therapist is that whatever they are told stays private. This is expected when someone tells a mental health professional everything that has been going on in their life. This code of confidentiality comes with the daunting mental weight of holding clientele secrets which piles onto a job that already comes with its stressors.

“The impact of the weight [is] the secrets that are held,” Dr. Lier said, describing how the secrets being held between client and family can be one of the most mentally pressing matters when it comes to therapeutic work. 

Effects of Working in the Mental Health Industry.

Although being a psychologist is a very mentally tough profession to be in, it is a field that is honorable to be in. Like most jobs, mental health professionals will always feel bittersweet about leaving a job that they have worked hard at for many years of their life.

“A lot of satisfaction but there will also be some sadness because I’ll remember some of the families where we didn’t connect as well,” Dr. Frankie says, trying to encapsulate the feelings that come with the thought of retirement. 

A big takeaway is that even with some aspects being sadder to look back on, being in this field is something that should be viewed from an outside perspective with more love and care due to the gratitude and appreciation many hold for these therapists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals.

“I can’t imagine leaving this work with regrets, there’s only a sense of gratitude that I get to do something I love to do,” Dr. Lier said. 

The big takeaway that can be found is how even though being in the mental health field needs a person to be mentally sharp the outcome is less traumatic then it is gratifying and passionate. 

Getting Help:

Psychology is a very demanding and challenging field, and the people who have spent their lives working towards helping people in the HB community is very important. Hence, as a profession that demands immense mental sharpness can lead to a negative domino effect in not just the workplace but in a psychologist’s daily life. Moreover, highlighting psychologists and the many mental aspects that come with this field is pivotal in understanding why getting professional help is so important. Continuing to understand the wide range of mental roadblocks also paves a road for younger psychologists to look at and understand when they uncover those issues.