I've been a licensed psychotherapist in Silicon Valley for the past decade, and I've never witnessed such an atmosphere of panic and insecurity amid the massive tech layoffs
- Annie Wright runs Evergreen Counseling, a boutique trauma therapy center in Berkeley, California.
- Since the Twitter and Meta layoffs, she and her team are speaking to hundreds of patients a week.
Over the past decade, Silicon Valley operated under the spell that the tech industry was unstoppable.
As a practicing therapist in the Bay Area, around 50% of my patients work in tech. They're employed at companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google — or in "high tech," tackling more advanced issues like artificial intelligence.
The median income of our patients hovers around six figures, but many take home much bigger paychecks. Several of my patients hold titles in the top ranks of the tech ecosystem.
Through my work, I've been privy to stories of the industry's rapid expansion. I've heard and seen first-hand how these companies ballooned with investment, hired constantly, and doled out benefits like party favors.
For many across Silicon Valley, that all contributed to an environment of professional safety and security. Many believed — or even internalized — the idea that things would only become better.
Over time, I too, became convinced that Silicon Valley was untouchable. That was an erroneous belief.
Nothing in the universe can exist in a constant state of expansion. Everything requires contraction at some point —that's where we are right now.
Since Twitter announced mass layoffs in early November, shockwaves have been rippling through Silicon Valley.
The climate has suddenly shifted into one of generalized fear, anxiety, and insecurity. It's a night-and-day contrast to the seemingly unbridled prosperity of the past several years.
My staff of 21 clinicians and I are working all hours to accommodate the sudden need for psychotherapeutic support and the rush of people trying to use their Health Savings Account benefits before the year's end.
Aside from talk therapy, my team and I specialize in trauma therapy and eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing — a form of psychotherapy designed to help people heal from post traumatic stress disorder.
The uptick in patients seeking us specifically signals that people aren't just looking for counseling. Many — paralyzed in an initial state of shock — are experiencing or re-experiencing trauma.
Twitter's layoffs were especially hard on people. The abrupt and chaotic way the company initially laid off almost 50% of its staff created a tone of anger and distrust. Twitter's top leadership still hasn't taken any ethical or compassionate responsibility for the situation. Severance terms haven't even been released yet.
Those laid off from Meta are faring a little bit better. The responsibility that leadership took, as well as the severance terms, created a much different culture of reduced anger and fear. People feel a stronger acknowledgement of the impact the layoffs had on them.
Regardless of the company, junior employees and middle management are feeling the greatest levels of insecurity. In good times, they likely believed they could leave a job, take a few months off, care for themselves, and still be snapped up within a day. Now, they're worrying about how long it will take them to secure something once they're back on the market.
I don't anticipate a radical shift anytime soon where everybody feels safe again. People are going to spend the holiday season buckling down, brushing up on their interview skills, and taking the tests they need to interview rigorously.
There's a general sobering across Silicon Valley that will extend into the new year. And therapists, like me, are going to be busy for quite some time shepherding people through.
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