Nate Williams Publishes on Therapist Turnover Research

Nate Williams

Nate Williams, assistant professor in the School of Social Work, is celebrating the publication of an article he co-authored titled “Therapist Financial Strain and Turnover: Interactions with System-Level Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices” to the peer reviewed journal, Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research.

Williams’ study examines the relationship between therapist financial strain and therapist turnover in community mental health agencies. Authors chose this area of study as therapist turnover is a major challenge in community mental health settings and finding ways to reduce turnover is one major goal of state and federal workforces.

Financial strain is composed of cognitive, emotional and behavioral responses to the experience of economic hardship. Williams and co-authors were interested in understanding whether financial strain played a significant role in contributing to turnover among therapists in community mental health settings, given the turbulent financial environment. This interest also was sparked due to previous research that had not explored this relationship.

Additionally, in an effort to discover factors that might offset the effects of financial strain and thus therapist turnover, researchers also investigated whether the effect of financial strain on therapist turnover might be reduced if the larger mental health system provided training for therapists in evidence-based practices – that is, practices that are substantiated by scientific research to be effective for patients.

Increasing the use of evidence-based practice currently is a major goal of many mental health systems across the U.S. The authors hypothesized that providing these types of training opportunities for therapists might offset the effect of financial strain and enable therapists to remain employed because of an increased sense of effectiveness and satisfaction with their work. Therefore, researchers tested whether therapist participation in a system-funded, evidence-based practice training moderated the effect of financial strain on therapist turnover.

As a result of their study, researchers found that overall, therapists who experienced higher levels of financial strain were more likely to leave their agency. However, this relationship did not hold for all therapists. Therapists who had, at some point, participated in an evidence-based practice training but still experienced financial strain were less likely to leave their agency, whereas therapists who had never participated in trainings and experienced financial strain were more likely to leave. Therefore, the authors concluded that there are two avenues for reducing therapist turnover in community mental health settings: increasing therapist pay to reduce financial strain and providing therapists with training in evidence-based practices.

The journal, Administration and Policy in Mental Health, strives to improve the effectiveness of all mental health and related human service programs and make administration more viable both as a professional career and a field of knowledge.

Read the full study, “Therapist Financial Strain and Turnover: Interactions with System-Level Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices.”