Are Therapy Jobs Stressful?

Therapists may have some of the best jobs in America, but that certainly doesn’t mean therapy jobs are without stress. A 2010 job survey from and rated physical therapy jobs, occupational therapy jobs, and speech therapy jobs as having "average" stress levels, but increased demand by patients, battles with insurance companies, and changing government legislation have many therapists feeling more stressed than ever.  

This month’s survey asked therapists to rate their work-related stress levels on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being totally stress free and 5 being the most stress they could imagine. Of the nearly 300 therapist respondents, 40% rated their stress level as a “4” and 12% gave their stress a “5.” Another 36% measured their stress-level at a “3,” 10% gave their stress-level a “2,” and a lucky 2% said their job was totally stress free.

Why so stressed? 

Nearly 60% of all respondents said too much paperwork was the primary source of their professional stress. Many therapists also cited too many patients (48%) and not enough time with patients (34%) as sources of stress. 26% complained of budget restrictions as a primary stressor. One-quarter of all respondents said conflicts with management or colleagues were causing stress. Other sources of stress were not enough patients (17%) and inability to find work (13%).

While stress is on the rise for therapists, it appears the number of hours therapists are working is also increasing. Nearly half of therapist respondents work between 40 and 50 hours per week. Another 13% work between 50 and 60, while 3% work more than 60 hours a week. One-third of therapists say they are working about the same number of hours as they were two years ago, while 42% are working more hours. This may in part be a result of a therapist’s personal choice, but it is likely that the increasing patient volume – cited by nearly half of all respondents as a primary source of stress – is also increasing the number of hours therapists are required to work.

How are they coping?

A few therapists revealed that increased stress has caused them to look for new employers or even switch careers altogether, but most are not resorting to such extreme measures. The most commonly cited methods for coping with work-related stress are talking about it with coworkers and/or friends outside of work, as well as exercise and/or meditation.

Other methods used by our respondents for coping with stress include:

·         Making time outside of work for hobbies such as music, gardening, reading, etc. 
·         Taking time off and if possible, going on regular vacations
·         Discussing ongoing challenges with supervisor or finding a mentor to talk to.
·         Following a healthy diet and getting enough sleep.
·         Making a conscious effort to leave work at work and focus on other things when at home.

While most therapists’ jobs will never be stress free, but it is important to find effective ways to manage your stress level in order to maintain a balanced lifestyle and avoid career burnout.