The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the psychological suffering of many and contributed to an increase in anxiety and/or depressive disorders in the United States. Recent studies have focused on stressors experienced by frontline medical workers, yet behavioral health providers also experienced significant stress prior to and during the pandemic. Results of a recent online survey measuring the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of behavioral health providers indicate that respondents experienced feelings of distress, depression, anxiety, isolation, and fear. A majority of respondents reported negative impacts on their ability to deliver care to their clients. Providers experienced the rapid switch from in-person care delivery to telehealth services, and the need for provider education and training in supplying care in future emergencies.

Research Question/Aims

This project seeks to describe the impact of a public health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic on behavioral health providers and the care they can provide to patients. Specific research questions include:

  1. What supports are in place for behavioral health providers to manage burnout and stress during public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. What supports are available to assist with necessary shifts in service delivery, such as the transition from in-person care to telehealth services?
  3. What are the long-term implications of the shift to telehealth for behavioral health providers and patients?


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought much-needed attention to the phenomenon of burnout, particularly among healthcare workers. However, more research is needed to determine the best ways to support behavioral health providers specifically. In addition, the transition to telehealth has been largely positive for behavioral health providers, but there are several challenges that must be addressed as telehealth becomes a mainstream service modality. Researchers must identify best practices for telehealth delivery of behavioral health services, ensuring providers understand the nuances required forĀ  effective teletherapy, especially for populations that have beenĀ  disproportionately negatively impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the behavioral health workforce, this includes lower licensure (or unlicensed) providers, peer counselors, and community behavioral health providers. Finally, if there are permanent extensions of policies that establish coverage and payment parity for telehealth, provider organizations should invest in effective ways to provide organizational-level support for their staff in this new element of the behavioral healthcare landscape.




Full Report


Samantha Lovan, MPH
Brittany Julie, MPH
Jaque King, MPP
Kyra Martin
Project Team Nancy Baum, PhD