Poverty and mental health: how do low-income adults and children fare in psychotherapy?

J Clin Psychol. 2013 Feb;69(2):115-26. doi: 10.1002/jclp.21951. Epub 2012 Dec 20.


Poverty is associated with an increased risk for psychological problems. Even with this increased risk for mental health problems and need for care, many low-income adults and families do not receive treatment because of logistical, attitudinal, and systemic barriers. Despite significant barriers to obtaining care, research suggests that low-income individuals show significant benefit from evidence-based mental healthcare. In this article, we review the link between poverty and mental health, common barriers to obtaining mental health services, and treatment studies that have been conducted with low-income groups. Finally, we discuss the implications of the research reviewed and offer recommendations for clinicians working with low-income children or adults, highlighting the importance of evidence-based care, extensive outreach, and empathic respect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Mental Health*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Psychotherapy*
  • United States