We’ve all seen the headlines. Behavioral health issues are on the rise. From cyberbullying to the opioid crisis, our collective attention has been pulled to the impact of health issues more and more in recent years. And for good reason, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five Americans is living with a mental health condition of some kind.

Yet, as the trend lines on mental health incidents rise, the availability of behavioral health professionals is dwindling. In fact, in early 2019, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology released a sobering report. Nearly every state in the country is facing a ‘severe shortage’ for practicing child and adolescent psychologists. And this trend is not isolated to pediatric psychologists. The shortage for talent across behavioral health specialties is a growing issue.

How the industry is responding

There are some silver linings, of course. The first is that more people are accessing the care they need, according to Mental Health America. Thanks, in part, to some shifts in insurance and to the diminished stigma for seeking mental health support, more people are reaching out when they need to.

The second is a trend I’ve seen firsthand as a recruiter. Increasingly, healthcare professionals are growing and enhancing their strategies to address these needs. Leading behavioral health organizations are expanding their footprints, and even more traditional healthcare providers, like hospital systems, are taking a harder look at how to meet the needs of their patients.

All of this points to a trend I’m not sure I’ve seen addressed yet: the need for more behavioral health leaders (Director, VP and C-Suite leaders) across the country. I first started to see the demand for leaders in behavioral health tick up among my own clients around 2014, and I predict that recruiters will continue to see an increase in these roles coming online. National leaders in the behavioral health space are growing quickly. It’s exciting and important to see them mobilizing to help people. But they need talented, forward-thinking leaders to help them succeed.

How to identify the right talent

So what does it take to be successful in these roles? With the behavioral health landscape being so complex, I look for a few distinct and important success factors. Some characteristics might seem obvious. I look for people who are mission-driven, who are leaders in their field, and who are very compassionate. But I also look for passionate problem solvers. The rise in demand and the shortage for talent is only one of the hurdles facing behavioral health leaders. With that in mind, I look for innovators. Those are the people that I have found are the most successful when it comes to making an impact.

What trends are you seeing in your field? Share a comment below on the roles you think we’ll see more of in the future.


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